May 16th, 2021

Parents may want to rethink their career advice to high school leavers; here’s why.

You’d be forgiven if the mention of Vocational Education didn’t immediately bring to mind an international fashion brand, a best-selling author and a four-time Oscar winner.

And yet Vocational Education and Training (VET) was the springboard that launched all three of these career pursuits.

Nicki Zimmerman took her iconic fashion label (Zimmerman) from Sydney to the world stage with showrooms in London, New York and Los Angeles. If you flick on the TV, you may catch bestselling author and celebrity chef, Donna Hay in the kitchen or celebrated costume designer, Catherine Martin, on the red carpet.

An example of three passionate Australians who gained the practical skills to go forth into the world and realise their ambitions. And they’re not isolated cases. Aside from finding stable and rewarding work in their chosen industries, many VET graduates follow their passions and also go on to start their own businesses.

Find out later in this post how to access more information on VET success stories as well as industry trends and opportunities. For now, it would help to clarify a few things.


The difference between VET and University

Vocational education aims to equip students with precise, industry focused skill sets needed to succeed on the job. In other words, VET qualifications focus on work-oriented and practical skills, whereas higher education courses focus more on achieving academic outcomes.

VET qualifications are usually provided through TAFE or Registered Training Organisations.

University education or higher education is mostly about theory and thinking skills. For jobs that require a lot of background knowledge, like say doctors, lawyers and specialised engineers, the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree from a university. For everything else, there’s usually a strong vocational pathway available.


Debunking the myth 

Despite the abundance of job opportunities provided to VET graduates, an outdated myth remains among some parents and students. The misconception that in order to succeed, you need to go to university. Even without considering the successes mentioned earlier, there’s increasing evidence these attitudes are in fact, just that, a myth.

Skilling Australia chief executive Nicholas Wyman says “even though nearly 80% of parents want their kids to get a university education, it might not be best for them. The prospects for getting a job are tumbling with a uni degree but with VET, they’re rising and rising”

Consider the following:

  1. A recent report  found that 78% of VET students find work after graduation compared to 67% of university graduates
  2. The same report found the median full-time income for a VET graduate is $56,000 compared to $54,000 for students who completed a bachelor’s degree
  3. Recent research on  youth ( 15-24 years old) finds that  work-based training achieves the best lasting employment outcomes. Although apprenticeships and traineeships are  definitely one way, there are also other work-based training approach such as internships and work placements that are available as part of a VET qualification.
  4. Another report  found that Vocational diplomas in construction, engineering and commerce typically lead to higher lifetime incomes than many low-ATAR university graduates are likely to earn, especially those with degrees in popular fields such as science and humanities.
  5. 9 out of 10 growth occupations are accessible through a VET qualification . Even the 10th one you can start your journey with VET!


Graduates enter the workforce with confidence

VET teaches students to perform job specific tasks. Giving them a clear idea of how things will be in the workplace and allowing them to decide whether they’ll be a good fit for the job, and the wider industry.

Further, VET course fees are significantly less when compared with higher education, even before you factor in government subsidies. The Australian Government recently allocated $1 billion towards VET course subsidies through Job Trainer , with many students being eligible for full course fees. That’s right, their entire qualification paid for.

VET graduates can also pursue university education with their qualification, often gaining credits towards their degree. In some cases, this can take a whole year off the degree study time, resulting in substantial savings on course fees.

VET supports a strong economy

Some of the most highly sought-after skills across most industries are taught through vocational education. As mentioned earlier, 9 out of 10 of the forecasted growth industries in Australia have a VET pathway. This is no coincidence. Providers are quick to adjust courses and curriculum to match the needs of industry, meaning graduates can be confident their skills are relevant and in demand.


One in five businesses face skills shortages | Australian Bureau of Statistics Dec 2020

All things considered

While university remains a good option for some, all high school leavers benefit from assessing the pros and cons to both VET and higher education qualifications. Especially considering the unstable job market in a post COVID-19 world.

With the opening of many doors through vocational education, well informed high school leavers are increasingly choosing a VET pathway as plan A, rather than plan B. The key message being, that practical skills are in demand, and ambitious minds are not just found on the seats of university lecture theatres.

There is a great video SkillsOne has created for parents providing information on Vocational education and training, industry trends and jobs of the future. This free half an hour video was created to help parents support their children in making informed career decisions.

There is also a webinar panel recording  that was made following the Parent Digital Showcase  which gives more insight.


Free Parent Digital Showcase- rethinking VET careers. Available until 31st May 2021


Subscribe for updates from National Skills Week!