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TAFE is doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to providing the skilled workers the economy needs.
As Australia's economy continues to power from strength to strength, one of the biggest constraints to its continued growth is a lack of skilled workers. More so than other institutions, TAFE is equipping students with skill sets that growing industries require.
The big headache for Australian employers is not attracting "white-collar professionals", but recruiting those with technical and trade skills. According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, only 61 per cent of vacancies for technicians and trades were filled in 2011/12, and there were less than two suitable applicants (1.7, to be exact) per vacancy for these types of jobs.
The situation is even more dire in certain industries. For example, an employer advertising for 10 automotive trades workers last year would, on average, have had only nine qualified people apply and would have been able to fill only four of the positions.
According to the latest government data, the skills shortage is particularly acute in the following fields:
[quote]It's not the nation's universities that are pumping out the mining electricians, chefs, mechanics and childcare workers that Australia is in desperate need of.[/quote]
Private colleges also play a role in producing graduates with trades and technical skills, but they focus on providing lucrative, glamour courses such as fitness instructor certification.
A recent study undertaken by Christopher Stone for the Centre for Policy Development found 29 per cent of TAFE students in Victoria were being trained to fill jobs in industries affected by the skills shortage as opposed to less than 20 per cent of students at private training facilities.
With TAFE facing funding cuts in several states, Stone emphasised the vital role the vocational education and training (VET) sector plays in creating a skilled workforce, commenting, "By providing skills to the economy, VET has been estimated to provide a strong return on investment."