In the past few decades, it has become apparent that the number of school leavers has been encouraged to pursue a tertiary education rather than a trade. Previously Vocational Education and Training (VET) was considered the primary path to a long and fruitful profession. Today the blue-collar worker has been eclipsed by the suit and tie.
In a 180 degree turn-around from the late eighties more and more school leavers have been encouraged to pursue a tertiary degree, but with the oversupply of graduates and in the era of digital disruption where many traditional white collar occupations are being automated, this is leading to a skills shortage in key vocational and emerging industries.
The balance will need to be restored before our industry and labour markets stall and our economy is affected. By encouraging those who are considering their future careers we need our schools to offer both knowledgeable information on academic education available, and career options for those who can enter our workforce as a trainee or apprentice, earn while they learn and gain valuable real-life experience.
Vocational training not only offers a trade which can usually be applied across a broad spectrum of industries but ensures that the employee is learning soft skills like how to effectively communicate with others, think on their feet and be part of a functional team.
In a recent study conducted that government funding for VET has decreased by 4.7% from a decade ago but university funding grew by 50%. This is limiting our students’ horizons by driving a generation of workers with academic knowledge who are heavily in debt and few career opportunities but have little in the way of the prophecies needed by the job market and the skills employers are actually looking to employ.
Tipping the scale back to where we have a labour force which is highly agile, capable and can navigate the emerging technologies will take funding. From more focus being put on schools to provide a realistic career advice. For continued support from agencies, trainee and apprentice support enterprises and the public who support these occupations.
We know that we no longer have a guaranteed career for life and today’s school leaver can expect to change jobs 17 times and have 5 careers in their lifetime. When thinking of the long-term future of a school leaver the safe option used to be paid employment downpaying a large loan to get an entry-level position and then progressing from there.
A recent Deloitte study found that only 3 in 10 employees coming into the workforce by 2020 feel they have developed the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in the workforce. With VET the school leaver can learn on the job, embrace tertiary qualifications, save money on equipment and tools and earn an income.
By empowering our youth, assisting with their education, providing them with the encouragement, skill and patience to get onto a useful career that will make them feel like they are valued, useful, appreciated, contributing members of our society, we will all benefit.
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