The supply and demand of careers

The numbers don't lie. The fulltime employment rate for university graduates in Australia is now less than 70%. This is the lowest it's been in 30 years.

Meanwhile, TAFE graduates are 50% more likely than their university counterparts to be in paid employment within three months of graduation. Yet university still somehow continues to be seen as the best pathway to a career. What's going on here?

This idea of a university qualification being a golden ticket to a career is not only outdated but it flies in the face of the actual demand and supply of careers. In other words, many universities are producing graduates with qualifications that aren't particularly in demand in the job market. TAFE, on the other hand, is good at matching its graduates with workforce needs – meeting the demand with the supply.

There are several reasons for this. Principally the NSW Skills Shortage list is firmly on TAFE's radar. This means it gives priority to the training for those career areas involving skills currently in high demand but in low supply.

TAFE's strong industry links are also part of the picture. Many TAFE teachers are established experts in their respective fields. This not only means that what they're teaching is consistent with current industry standards and practices, but strong industry connections also mean increased opportunities for students to secure jobs through these contacts.

It's okay if you aren't sure what direction you want your career to take. Whether it's a job that requires skills learnt at TAFE or at uni, you should consider the same guiding principles before you make any solid career commitment.

Tips on deciding what career to pursue?

  • Identify your ideal work/life balance: For example would you be happy working in shifts? Are you cool with weekend work? Or is the standard nine to five the only schedule you'd be interested in?
  • What is the longevity of your career: Will this be a job that evolves and provides you with opportunities for growth in five, ten or twenty years' time?
  • Does the salary meet your expectations? Think about your personal aspirations such as travel, family, mortgage. Will this career fund your goals?
  • Are workers in this career area in over-supply or demand? Review the NSW skills shortage list; is your chosen career on the list? By choosing a career path that's also a skilled worker shortage area, such as IT or construction means you're more likely to be employed and more likely to gain a salary that meets your expectations.
  • Is this career area one that you are interested in? Choosing a job that you're passionate about will be more fulfilling than one that simply pays the bills. Don't forget, you'll likely spend 93,915 hours of your life at work, so you're going to want to enjoy what you're doing!
  • If you aren't too sure about what area would potentially suit your interests and personality type take our career quiz or pop down to your local TAFE NSW campus and chat with a career adviser.

    *Statistics sources from ABC, 4 Corners and Sydney Morning Herald