Trade wins

TAFE is a fantastic learning hub that has been skilling students and connecting them to jobs for over 120 years

Quick, what do Lindsay Fox, Frank Lowy and Janine Allis have in common? (Apart from being successful businesspeople, that is.)

They're all entrepreneurs with no university degree. The idea that you need to go to uni to really make it in the world is over.

To run a small business or be an entrepreneur requires the determination to succeed, the instinct to take risks and the hunger to seek an opportunity and grab it with both hands.

I've never regretted dropping out of uni to pursue a trade. In fact, I still consider it to be one of the best decisions I ever made. The skills it gave me meant I was able to build a small business, earn a good wage, and train skilled apprentices.

I still carry these skills with me today.  I've seen first-hand the value of a skilled workforce and what it brings to our communities and local economies.

Across NSW, more than 70,000 students have finished their HSC exams and will now start the next step of their respective journeys. They'll leave school and turn their focus to the future. The possibilities are endless as our skilled economy shifts towards exciting innovations such as technology start-ups.

While traditional core trades such as carpentry, plumbing and hairdressing are still in strong demand, only 20% of students started a vocational training program last year.  And of that 20%, only 7.3% pursued a Certificate IV or higher, 4.9% started an apprenticeship, and 4.4% entered in to a traineeship.

When you consider what the real world is asking for, those figure just don't add up.  To help increase trade completion rates from 52% to 65%, more choice and flexible training opportunities must be the priority.

The opportunities at TAFE are focused on delivering industry partnerships that provide students with a blended learning environment and the choice to learn either online or in the workplace, whether that's a salon, a commercial kitchen or a construction site.

As a small business owner who hired young apprentices, I know these students are not just the tradespeople of tomorrow; they are our future entrepreneurs and our future business leaders. For many, taking the path less travelled will set a course into small business. This will provide an opportunity to do what you love, be your own boss and make a contribution to your community. And if you take all the risks and make all the sacrifices, who can stop you?  Nobody.

John Barilaro is the Minister for Regional Development, Skills & Small Business