VET sector in spotlight following mining decline

by Brett Henebery31 Jul 2017
As the Australian economy adjusts to the end of the mining boom, all eyes are on the VET sector to upskill and reskill workers for new employment opportunities.

One critical part of this sector is TAFE, which saw a 51% drop in enrolments across all diplomas in the first half of this year. The figures highlight a creeping challenge for the industry around how to attract greater numbers of youth into the sector.

Fortunately, there have been some encouraging reports that have the potential to incentivise a greater number of enrolments.

In May, a report by the Skilling Australia Foundation (SAF) revealed that TAFE graduates not only have higher starting wages than university graduates, but also find work more quickly, on average.

The report, titled: ‘Perceptions Are Not Reality: myths, realities & the critical role of vocational education & training in Australia’, found that in comparison with university undergraduate programs, vocational education usually provides students with a faster, more cost-effective pathway to complete a qualification and enter the workforce.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia recently, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, outlined the crucial role of VET as Australia’s economy undergoes rapid change and technology alters the nature of work.

“Australia’s future prosperity will be driven by harnessing our diverse economy - this includes looking to new sectors to support new sources of jobs, and to drive productivity to underpin continued economic growth,” Andrews said.

“This is why we are making investments to ensure VET is poised to help advance Australia’s economic development.”

These measures include the new $1.5bn Skilling Australians Fund to boost apprentice numbers, a new apprentice mentoring program for industries undergoing structural change, and a stronger and more sustainable VET Student Loans scheme.

“All of these measures are geared towards lifting the quality and relevance of training, and to create more apprenticeship places,” Andrews said.

“More than ever, our economy will need a workforce which is modern, skilled and adaptable.”

Andrews added that as the economy continues its structural adjustment due to the end of the mining boom, it is the VET sector that can provide the tools to upskill and reskill workers to capitalise on new employment opportunities.

“VET is a fundamental part of our economy. And it offers a vital pathway for Australians to pursue their career goals and passions,” she said.

According to the latest reports, there are around four million students undertaking vocational training, and the number of Indigenous students and those with a disability are also increasing.

Andrews said it was “crucial” that these students get “value for money, a quality education and learn skills our economy really needs now and into the future”.

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