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If you were to guess who the highest paid graduates in Australia were, would you guess doctors, lawyers, bankers perhaps?
Believe it or not, the highest paid graduates are Vocational Education and Training (VET) graduates.
These findings are backed up by a recent report from Skilling Australia.
According to Skilling Australia's recent report , it was found that on top of having higher paid graduates, Vocational Education and Training (VET) institutions, like TAFE NSW, are helping qualify workers for roles within industries currently experiencing skills shortages.
The report showed that VET students complete their qualifications in less time than university students, which means that not only are graduating VET students earning more money, but they are entering the workforce to do so much earlier.
The report released by McCrindle Research and Skilling Australia Foundation has found that up to 67% of university students find work after graduation. On the other hand, 78% of VET graduates, and a whopping 92% of VET graduates who studied as part of an apprenticeship, are able to find work after completing their studies.
"40% of current jobs in Australia won't exist in 10 to 15 years."
Even with today's qualifications, notable Australian futurist, Shara Evans, suggests that "the reality is that 40% of current jobs in Australia won't exist in 10 to 15 years due to automation - that's five million jobs gone."
With that level of job loss, a large number of Australians will either have to re-skill, retrain, or face some level of unemployment.
Many of those wishing to re-skill and/or retrain, will likely be compelled to study at universities to attain new qualifications. However, the standard time to complete a general Bachelor degree is 3 years, while a typical professional degree takes 4 or more years. For someone battling with unemployment, this route could prove unfeasible.
VET students on the otherhand, can take as little as 6 months to re-qualify and reskill. With certificates, diplomas and advanced diplomas ranging between 6 months and 2 years, it can be argued that the VET route is a favorable solution.
Despite all of these statistics, public perception regrettably still suggests that a university education is superior. Skilling Australia's CEO, Nicholas Wyman has expressed that that the vocational education and training sector (VET) still needs to tackle such "stigmas."
"The prospects for getting a job are tumbling with a uni degree."
Mr Wyman says that "VET graduates on average earn at least as much as their uni graduate peers, and the prospects for getting a job are tumbling with a uni degree - but with VET, they're rising and rising."
The report also states that VET students are employed much faster and earn higher wages than university graduates, indicating that the median starting wage for VET graduates is up to $56,000, compared to $54,000 for university graduates.
Skilling Australia also found a notable difference in completion rates between university and VET students. Between 2005 and 2013, Bachelor students recorded a completion rate of 73.6%. This rate dropped to 58.5% for students over the age of 25, and less than half (49.2%) for part-time students.
By comparison, the load pass rate for Commonwealth and state government funded VET courses was 82.8% - nearly 10 percent higher than university courses.
With online and technological advances, modern society is making greater use of an increase in cutting-edge, respectable, and lucrative career options that don't require university qualifications.
"These jobs exist in progressive, fast-growth industries, such as healthcare, bio-tech and cyber security, agriculture, information technology and service industries, such as tourism and hospitality," Mr Wyman explains.
"The VET sector is well-known for partnering with industry and government to equip people, particularly younger people, with workplace specific skills and knowledge which aim to meet current and future employment demands."
Future projections back up Mr Wyman's claims, showing substantial growth in industries which are dominated by human relational skills. The largest industry growth areas are predicted to be health professionals, carers and aides, administrators, chefs and electricians.
The report suggests that of the 10 industry subgroups with the largest projected employment gains by 2020, all can be trained for via VET courses.
Reports on skill shortages continue to reveal that in many industries, there is a high demand for labour that is not being matched by supply. The biggest shortages were in the supply of technicians (specifically automotive and food) and trade workers - roles that VET programs are renowned for.
Young people are seemingly discouraged from entering these programs and filling these vacancies due to misconceptions surrounding VET and its effectiveness. Yet encouraging young Australians to pursue VET qualifications will ensure that they will become ‘skills ready,' are more employable in in-demand roles, and much less likely to face long-term unemployment in the years ahead.
VET institutes like TAFE NSW are poised to be at the forefront of future employment readiness training, when you consider that according to the Commonwealth Government Department of Employment, the VET sector already provides training courses for 9 out of 10 occupations predicted to have the greatest growth of all new jobs over the next five years.
In order to ensure the stability of the Australian economy during the challenges of the future, such as rapidly developing technology and globalisation, Australia needs more adaptable workers who are able to engage in learning throughout their lives. Not only does this show that VET courses are more relevant than ever when it comes to preparing Australia to be more globally competitive, but it shows that VET institutes should be held in equal, if not higher regard than universities when being considered as an option for employment qualification.
When you combine these future job projections, qualification timeframes, graduate employment rates, and the higher earnings of graduates as outlined in the McCrindle Research and Skilling Australia Foundation report , the VET sector appears to edge ahead of the competition as the preferred choice in preventing skills shortages, providing people with the skill sets required for jobs of the future, and for preparing people for long and successful careers.