Debunking myths about Vocational Education and Training in Australia

National Skills Week kicked off on Monday as a way of celebrating Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Australia.

VET plays an important role in driving our economy by providing the resources to meet Australia’s skills and employment needs. So why is VET often overlooked by school leavers in favour of university pathways?

A general misconception among members of the public is that the only way to get a good paying job is to go to university, but that is simply not the case.

According to the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, The Hon Karen Andrews, public perceptions surrounding VET are out of step with reality and VET qualifications can “lead to successful, meaningful, professional careers with great salaries and outstanding careers prospects”.

Another misconception about VET is that it only relates to traditional trade roles like plumbing or auto mechanics. In reality, trades are just a small portion of the wide variety of career pathways available through VET. What might surprise people is that VET qualifications can lead you to some of country’s highest paying jobs – reiterating the fact that you don’t always need a university degree to secure your dream job.

Solving Australia’s skills shortage

As at July 2018, Australia’s unemployment rate stood at about 5.4 per cent, which was slightly lower than the previous year. Despite this, Australia is still experiencing a skills shortage, with a particular need for skilled technicians and trade workers.

A recent report from NAB, Moments that Matter: Understanding Australian SME, identified that 48% of Small to Medium Businesses (SMEs) in Australia believe there is a skills shortage in their sector, with inadequate training a key contributing factor. Furthermore, 62% of SMEs that took part in the research believe that university and college graduates are not ‘job ready’.

At the same time, universities are churning out more graduates than there are available jobs, often forcing individuals to upskill or retrain, take on a part-time or casual role to get their foot in the door or find work in a field they’re not trained in at all (underemployment).

The benefit of a VET career pathway, such as an apprenticeship or traineeship, is that it provides an individual with on-the-job experience and skills that directly meet the needs of their employer.

Why more people should consider VET

Research from the Skilling Australia Foundation shows that VET graduates are often better off than their university counterparts, particularly when it comes to employability and financial gain. It might surprise you to know that:

  • On average, VET graduates earn $56,000 in comparison to $54,000 for university graduates with a Bachelor's degree.
  • Approximately 78% of VET graduates secure full-time employment after training, compared to just 69% for graduates. The figures are even better for VET apprentices with 82% securing employment after training.
  • The highest average starting salary for a VET qualification is $85,400 (Cert IV in Hazardous Areas - Electrical) while the highest average starting salary for a Bachelor's degree is $80,000 (Dentistry).

Source: Perceptions Are Not Reality: myths, realities & the critical role of vocational education and training in Australia, 2017

Infographic comparing Vocational Education and Training and university