T-VET or not T-VET?

Whatever the debate around education funding, the fact remains that young people want to be skilled and work-ready

There are currently about 60,000 school teachers in NSW. But how many of them realise the differences between a TAFE environment and the school environment? Many high school teachers see their students head off to TAFE for T-VET courses, but sometimes not really knowing what exactly they do there or even why they're doing it in the first place.

For many decades now, teenagers have been actively contributing to the workforce. But times are changing and so is the workforce. It's more competitive now than ever before. Those teenagers who are skilled in job specific areas will have many options for future education and training as well as further success in the job market.

I've noticed a gradual shift has been taking place over the last decade or so. There's more recognition now that our teenagers are a precious resource that mustn't be wasted. Entering the labour market with some valuable skills and training already under their belts, rather than learning solely on the job, is something that is now largely considered advantageous to both the employer and the employee. This improves the overall quality of the teenaged workforce and gives employers something to work with rather having to start from scratch with each new recruit.

So why do young adults like the TAFE environment?

For a start, TAFE is not school. A school generally functions as a microcosm with its own rules and regulations and expectations of conformity, such as the wearing of school uniforms.

Apart from having classrooms with desks and chairs, the TAFE environment is generally quite different. There may be equipment that's specific to industries such as hospitality, plumbing and automotive. Students are usually on a first name basis with teachers. There tends to be more of an emphasis on self-directed learning and a consideration for the skills (including life skills) the students may already possess.

TAFE provides teenagers some flexibility, responsibility and an opportunity to succeed at a more ‘grown up' level. These young people like the fact they can gain a qualification before leaving school, which may give them greater opportunities for scholarships and apprenticeships. The students are often given a wide range of practical experiences whilst studying at TAFE that are used in the ‘adult' world and these real world skills will be invaluable to their further careers.

This is not to discount the value of the HSC, but merely to provide a contrasting alternative to potential employers.

These young people have much to contribute to our society and many older Australians look back on their time at TAFE as one of the most valuable and memorable experiences of their lives. Whatever the debate around education funding, the fact remains that young people want to be skilled and work-ready. It's up to government and employers to work closely with TAFE to continue to drive innovation and change in the workforce.