By Ron Maxwell - CEO

This week, we celebrate National Skills Week, a chance for school leavers, job seekers and anyone looking for a new career to understand the opportunities that lie in vocational education and training (VET). In 2021, the week invites Australians to ‘rethink’ VET for a post-pandemic world, and it's certainly timely.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our shores in 2020, there has been renewed government focus on supporting Australians into VET careers, and for good reason. Before COVID-19, many apprenticeship industries had been in significant decline for some time. Then, during the pandemic, skilled migration paused, and many on existing skilled migration visas chose to leave our shores as global uncertainty continued.

In this climate, it's easy to see how skills shortages may be exacerbated, and this could lead to some fairly dire consequences if we don't turn it around. So, this National Skills Week, I'd like to talk about how we can 'rethink' VET careers and why it's important that we do.

Changing the conversation is critical

In 2020, VERTO partnered with Year13 to undertake research into how young people think about VET careers. The study revealed that perceptions of lower earning power, lack of encouragement, and limited promotion of apprenticeships within schools and at home are all significant barriers to apprenticeship or VET career paths.

To many, these results were astounding, but they didn't come as such a huge surprise for those who have been in the industry for some time. We know VET has long been considered the pathway for those who don't get into university, and it's a conversation that needs to change.

Not only can you earn while you learn during an apprenticeship or traineeship, but VET graduates typically earn $2,000 more than their university counterparts in their first year. And this is only likely to increase as demand outstrips supply in many industries.

The opportunities are extensive

With limited promotion of VET careers, many school leavers don't get to see the full extent of the opportunities available. Ask anyone outside the industry to list VET careers, and you'll probably find most answers are traditional trade industries, such as automotive mechanics, carpentry or plumbing. There are some great careers available in these industries, particularly as many are in desperate need of qualified workers. However, many people don't realise that there are more than 500 traineeship and apprenticeship careers.

VET careers cover the full spectrum of industries, from trades to professional and creative careers, and everything in between. There really is something for everyone; in fact, there are so many options, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why VERTO launched CareerGate, a free online tool that matches school leavers and job seekers with career pathways that align with their skills and interests.

Employers are realising the value of VET careers

In a world that moves so quickly, forward-thinking employers are looking for VET's combination of on-the-job training and study to build the practical skills they need to thrive into the future.

The skills-based nature of VET means that an employer has certainty that their new hire has the skills to hit the ground running and get the job done. In addition, the learn-on-the-job approach allows VET students to build those critical workplace skills that can't be learnt in a classroom. More and more employers are placing a higher value on these soft skills, realising that a person can learn how to perform a particular task, but attitude, communication and collaboration take a long time to develop.   

VET will fuel our economic recovery

Australia's apprentices have long been the backbone of our economy, and we will need more skilled workers than ever before as we navigate an economic recovery. Our VET sector is uniquely placed to deliver these skills, but we need to encourage more people to take up the opportunities.

VET graduates are powering some of Australia's largest and fastest-growing industries, many of which will play an important role in recovery and beyond. For example, take healthcare and social assistance; an industry where need will only continue to grow; 31 per cent of workers in this industry hold VET qualifications. In addition, 9 out of 10 jobs of the future are tipped to require VET qualifications.

Building a VET career really is an investment in your future. So this National Skills Week, let's change the conversation and give VET careers the airtime they deserve. It will be a win for us all.

Whether you are a recent school leaver, looking for work, or considering a career change, VERTO can help you find a career that matches your skills and interests. Contact VERTO on 1300 4 VERTO (1300 483 786), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit verto.org.au to get started.