By Ron Maxwell - CEO
VERTO welcomed the recent announcement of the NSW State Government’s Careers NSW initiative. While there is still much to be done to address skills shortages, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, it is a step in the right direction. It provides a building block from which NSW can develop solutions to a host of challenges around education, employment and future-proofing our workforce.
Born out of a recent review into the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, the initiative aims to provide a dedicated careers advisory service to both school leavers and job seekers. More than simply providing career information, the initiative will offer access to experts – those out there working in industries to give people a real-world understanding of their career options. The initiative will also provide information on educational pathways so students and job seekers can take action to achieve their career goals.
While we are awaiting more details and information on the rollout, I think this initiative could play a very important role for individuals, communities, businesses and the broader economy.
More apprentices and trainees required to keep Australia moving forward
Apprentices and trainees are critical to our economic recovery. They will play a pivotal role in rebuilding and delivering on the many new infrastructure projects that will drive our country forward. It’s heartening to see governments at state and federal levels recognising this and putting initiatives in place to support more apprenticeship commencements.
The reality, however, is that the challenge is a significant one. We are facing national skills shortages in many industries, from carpentry to plumbing, hairdressing to aged care. The only way to address this shortfall is by recruiting more apprentices as soon as possible.
Skills shortages can have considerable impacts and a lasting legacy. From very early on, a skills shortage increases the operating costs for businesses in affected industries, increases that are often passed on to the end consumer. It also makes it incredibly difficult to source skilled workers as demand far outstrips supply, which can have an adverse effect on economic growth.
Over the longer term, the impacts can be even more dire. As an enduring report by the Australian Parliament put it, businesses impacted by skills shortages “…may adapt their operations to a lower skills base or occupations or industries of national importance may disappear, and the economy as a whole may follow a ‘low skills equilibrium.’ In the aged care industry, for example, the shortage of registered nurses is blamed for an increasing use of lower skilled or unqualified people, with potentially adverse consequences for the quality of care.”
If we reflect on that for just a moment and consider what the impacts of a lower skills base across industries like healthcare or construction could mean, it’s easy to see why we all need to get behind these initiatives.
Changing the conversation about trades and apprenticeship careers
I’ve talked before about how school career advice programs can overlook or give less airtime to apprenticeship careers, perpetuating the misconception that they are for those who can’t make it into university. The reality is that today’s apprenticeship careers can require a high level of skill and competencies in areas like technology, computing and mathematics.
This makes them ideal careers for a wide range of students, and it’s important that they are discussed on equal footing with other career options. I’m hopeful that this new take on career advice and educational pathways will see more young people learning about the full range of careers available to them, including apprenticeships and traineeships. Giving students access to people out there working in these spaces will help them see all the opportunities available to them and open new doors.
Showcasing career options to job seekers
The Careers NSW initiative will also provide career and educational pathway advice to those looking for work, and I think this is one of its critical features. With the end of JobKeeper last month, many workers across heavily impacted industries, like travel and tourism, may need to consider a career change – and this program could be ideal to support this transition.
We often focus on career advice for students, but with so much disruption and change in today’s workplace, it’s crucial to extend this support to those already in the workforce. By connecting job seekers and industry experts, this initiative has the potential to help so many Australians find not just their next job but a fulfilling, lifelong career.
Apprenticeships are often positioned as a career option for school leavers, and while this is true, they are also well-suited to those with more career experience. At VERTO, we’ve seen a rise in mature-aged apprenticeships recently, and it’s something I welcome.
For employers, mature-aged apprentices bring workplace and life experience, something a business can really benefit from. For the apprentice, it offers a chance to transition into a fantastic career and earn while they learn, so they can build a new career without taking time out of the workforce or losing a pay cheque.