By Ron Maxwell - CEO
As we head into 2018, many recent school leavers are making final decisions about the future, and as these kids and their families weigh up options, I want to share some of the reasons that Vocational Education and Training (VET) should be leading the discussion.
I’ve talked before about the shortage of graduate jobs for our university students, and with more than half a million new jobs in the next five years not requiring degree qualifications, VET is a great option for school leavers.
It’s no secret that a skills shortage is rapidly approaching across many of our traditional trades, as well as in a number of our key industry sectors. And it’s this supply and demand imbalance that is only going to increase wages and opportunities.
Opportunities abound in healthcare, property and retail
There are no two ways about it, one of the greatest employment opportunities right now is in our healthcare sector, particularly in Aged Care. In 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded 23,900 jobs vacant in the sector and with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) making rapid changes to the face of the industry, demand is only going to grow.
While healthcare jobs can sometimes seem confronting to young people, there is a wide range of jobs available with varying responsibilities. There are a range of VET qualifications in healthcare, from administrative roles to hands-on patient care, and when I talk to our graduates working in the industry, the resounding message is that it is incredibly rewarding.
As we mark a decade since the financial crisis that crippled our property and retail industries, both industries have made incredible comebacks. In fact, the property industry recently overtook the healthcare sector to become the biggest employer in New South Wales, with one in four jobs in the state relying on the industry directly or indirectly. And we are seeing a similar trend in Queensland too.
Our retail industry is also experiencing a revival, with recent reports listing it as being one of the top three industries for job vacancies in Australia. In my opinion, this is partly being fuelled by a shift in consumer thinking – people are starting to move away from the retail giants and shop small, choosing local providers, increasing skilled job opportunities across the sector.
IT jobs don’t always need a degree
In this digital age, Information Technology (IT) is a sector that will only continue to grow, particularly with changes to the Australian 457 Visa structure heavily impacting the industry’s ability to fill skill gaps with overseas talent.
I often hear the misconception that jobs in this sector require a university degree, and this is simply not true of many key roles. In an industry that is focused on practical skills, it’s easy to see why the combination of competency-based outcomes and hands-on experience typically offered by VET courses is, in many cases, more useful than more academic university studies. In fact, in one of the most in demand roles, ICT Support Technician, around half the current employees are VET qualified.
VET offers more than technical skills
Preparing our school leavers for the workforce isn’t just about technical skills or classroom education. In a world where communication is often done via screens, building face-to-face social and interpersonal skills is key to increasing the job prospects of our young people. I talk to employers all the time and this is something I hear often - recruiting someone with the skills to do the job isn’t the problem, it’s finding someone who also has the soft skills to fit into the team and workplace culture.
I’ve talked before about how, in my opinion, we aren’t teaching these core skills at school anymore, and with many university degrees shifting to online learning models, often kids aren’t learning how to interact with others until they reach the workforce. And this is a space were VET really comes into its own.
The practical study, on-the-job training, workforce placements and competency-based outcomes of VET courses are all geared to making sure graduates are job-ready when they enter the workforce. This means not only developing the technical abilities but also building the soft skills to interact and work effectively as part of a team.
It’s this blend of learning and practice, along with the agility of the VET sector to respond to market demand and changing trends, that puts VET in a prime position to give our young people a head start in the job market. And with VET qualifications key to securing employment in some of Australia’s fastest growing industries, it just makes sense for our school leavers to give it serious consideration.