Why we should raise the status of vocational training

by Brett Henebery24 Aug 2017
The Skilling Australia Foundation (SAF), a not-for-profit organisation which conducts skills assessments and provides relevant Industry based short courses, has called for the status of the vocational training industry to be raised.

A report released in May by SAF – titled: ‘Perceptions are not reality: myths, realities & the critical roles of vocational education & training in Australia’ – sought to clarify a number of myths about the sector.

It found that not only do VET graduates earn wages comparable to, if not exceeding, that of university graduates, they also have a higher employment rate than undergraduates.

Below, L&D Professional asks SAF CEO, Nicholas Wyman, about the opportunities and challenges for the VET sector in the year ahead.

LDP: SAF’s latest report puts to rest many of the myths surrounding vocational education. Do you think the perception of VET is beginning to change in a meaningful way, and what are some of the signs/indications that might support this?
An effective training market is only possible when the consumers in that market, being students and employers, are fully empowered to make appropriate choices. We are hoping that our report will continue to stimulate discussion about the diverse benefits of vocational education, and cause people to reconsider their preconceived ideas about vocational education and career pathways.

Our report is a step in disbanding the stigmas suggesting a university education is better than an apprenticeship. I believe that VET needs to be at the forefront of both our economic and educational debates, and raising the status of vocational education is a crucial part of addressing youth unemployment and youth disengagement.  It is also essential if we are going to make a dent in the national skills shortage, long-term unemployment and stop the overreliance on imported labour to act as a stop gap.

With the announcement of the Skilling Australians Fund, the recent Federal Government Budget appears to back this push for vocational education with $1.5 billion to be spent over the next four years on trainees and apprentices. A renewed focus on apprentices and trainees will boost the number of people who choose and succeed in this pathway, supporting more Australians to get the skills they need for jobs in demand.  

LDP: With the collapse of Careers Australia and others, it’s been a tumultuous time for the training sector. What are some of the most significant challenges you see for the vocational training sector in the year ahead?
The VET sector has suffered with declining enrolments and yet skills shortages are increasing.
A reinvigoration and modernising of VET qualifications is needed to ensure that Traineeships, Apprenticeships and general Certificate and Diploma level training are seen as attractive pathways for people undertaking the school to career transition.

In Australia we are seeing evidence of a ‘lost generation’ – a large number of young people who are neither in school nor in the work force. Many of these people find themselves in this situation because of family dysfunction, bad experiences or not engaging at school, poor or no career advice or an overall lack of purposeful goals. It’s a complicated problem that as a nation we must address
I think it's important for people to research training providers. They should not only look at price - but also quality.

The challenges for the sector will be attracting students - with the bias still toward university pathways many people can find successful and rewarding careers through VET pathways - it's about the right education at the right time.  Other challenges for the sector remain around quality across the sector. The government and regulators have placed a great deal of effort into this of late, weeding out the under performers. Quality can be found in both the public funded (TAFE) and private training sector.

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