It’s fair to say that for many years, probably decades, vocational education and training has had an image problem in Australia.
This became even more apparent when university entrance became more accessible for more families.
Many school advisers and parents encourage their children towards a university qualification after they leave school and vocational education and training is seen as a “plan B.” There is a widespread perception that university will lead to the best jobs with the highest salaries.
University is a great fit for some students and the right pathway for them, but vocational education and training deserves equal consideration. As we celebrate National Skills Week, it’s time to bust some myths.
A 2017 survey of more than 1000 Australian adults found four in five parents would prefer their children go to university than take a vocational pathway.
This was based on a perception there are higher salaries and better job outcomes on offer for university graduates.
However, a 2017 report by the Skilling Australia Foundation, Perceptions are Not Reality: myths, realities and the critical role of vocational education and training in Australia, shows this is not the case and provides some compelling reasons why young people should consider vocational education and training as a first option. It found: VET graduates have a higher employment rate than undergraduates – more than 78 per cent of VET graduates are employed after training, compared to 69 per cent of bachelor degree graduates.
VET graduates earn wages comparable to, if not exceeding university graduates – the median fulltime income for a VET graduate is $56,000 compared to $54,000 for a university graduate.
THE VET sector provides training courses for 9 out of 10 occupations predicted to have the greatest growth over the next five years.
Vocational education and training is more relevant than ever when it comes to meeting future skills needs and preparing Australia to be more globally competitive.
As the workforce transitions from Baby Boomers and Generation X to Generations Y and Z, different skills will be required. It’s estimated that Generation Ys will have at least 10 jobs in their lifetime. Workers will need to be more innovative and flexible to adapt to the changing needs of the sector.
The VET sector, with its links to industry and capacity to teach hands-on skills aligned to industry requirements, is well-placed to address this new workforce model.
Vocationally trained people keep our economy running they are the people who build our houses, create our restaurant dishes, make our morning lattes, take care of our cyber security and ensure the power in our houses is safe.
As the public training provider, at TasTAFE we strive to match our training to the needs of industry to help sustain the state’s economic growth and meet skills shortages. Our training meets the growth areas of the economy – construction, tourism and hospitality and health and aged care.
Training “tradies” is a core part of our business. We train about 4000 apprentices a year across about 13 industry groups with the most significant numbers in construction and allied trades, metal trades, tourism and hospitality, electrical and automotive.
Our achievements at the WorldSkills Australia National Championships in Sydney in June show our trades training is up there with the best. It is Australia’s largest vocational skills competition.
The Tasmanian team dominated, bringing home six gold, a silver and two bronze medals and winning the Evatt Shield for the best performing region. Fifteen of the 17-strong Tasmanian team and all but one of the medallists were trained at TasTAFE by our teachers.
But vocational education isn’t only about tradie training – that’s another myth that needs busting.
TasTAFE trains about 23,000 students a year and offers 250 nationally accredited and industryendorsed qualifications, from certificate 1 to advanced diplomas. Along with the traditional trades, our courses include health and aged care, agriculture, visual arts, screen and media, tourism and events and business and ICT.
The health sector is one example outside of the traditional trades where we are meeting a skills need. It’s been identified that 4000 more nurses and aged care workers will be required by 2025 for Tasmania’s ageing population. Our enrolled nursing and aged care courses will help meet this demand and provide job opportunities.
Students in these courses do extensive work placements in hospitals and aged care facilities and many gain employment as a result.
People interested in university can gain credit for
vocational outcomes, leading to a quicker pathway to completing a degree and entering the workforce.
TasTAFE and the University of Tasmania already work together to ensure students find the pathway that best suits their individual needs.
Vocational training offers many other advantages. Our graduates leave us with practical skills which can be applied straight into a real-life, workforce environment.
Vocational qualifications are nationally accredited, practical and transferable. A young person can go anywhere in the world and find work.
Apprentices get paid while they study and they can gain the sorts of skills that can lead to them starting their own business. We hear many stories of former apprentices who go on to start their own business and then employ apprentices of their own.
These are some very compelling reasons why vocational education shouldn’t be a Plan B but a first choice to set people up for long-term success.
Jenny Dodd is chief executive of Tasmania’s largest public training provider, TasTAFE, and is a board member of TAFE Directors Australia and TDA National Scholarships Foundation.