Vocational Education Better For The Individual and the Economy
[Updated January 24th, 2023]
Vocational Education and Training (VET) might just be better for the individual student and the economy than people thought.
The VET sector has long struggled with an image problem, the often forgotten middle child of the education world. Sandwiched between the debates about public versus private school and the prestige of different sandstone universities, VET is not given much thought by the general public.
Often thought of as a trade only learning model, many people don’t grasp the full capabilities and opportunities of the VET sector. While VET is the pathway for apprenticeships and traineeships in the trades, it is also a quicker and more assured pathway into other kinds of employment such as creative fields, specialised fields and business careers.
In 2017 the Skilling Australia foundation (SAF) published a report “Perceptions are not reality: myths, realities and the critical role of Vocational Education and Training in Australia” that challenged common misconceptions about the VET sector in Australia.
Since then, much more research has been done that goes to show vocational education is better for the individual and the economy.
The VET sector has struggled with its public image and reputation, however it does have a reputation for a practical and hands-on approach to learning. VET has traditionally been associated with trades and technical careers. With many students unsure and unconvinced that VET can provide them with the kind of career they want.
To compound matters VET in Australia has faced some challenges over the past few years including funding cuts. All of this has contributed to the public perception of VET. There is an academic elitism that we’ve yet to shake in Australia. Just ask the 4 out of 5 Aussie parents who would prefer their kid to go to university than do a VET program.
But VET has so much more to offer students, including pathways to university, qualifications in specialised and creative fields and opportunities for post graduate qualifications.
VET graduates are more employable
It’s a common misconception that VET graduates struggle to find employment. In fact it is this myth that might be driving more students into university degrees. 28% of people polled said they thought the main reason people choose university over VET is that university graduates find a job more easily.
The major difference between VET and university in this area is that training institutions maintain relationships with employers and often engage their graduates in employment programs and referral systems to help them find work out there in the world.
The VET courses are structured and focused on equipping students with relevant job skills applicable in the work environment, rather than the largely theoretical and academic approach of the university system.
Earn more with a VET qualification
VET graduates enjoy a higher employment rate, often making a comparable wage to university graduates and in certain disciplines they earn more than other university graduates. Yet the myth persists that VET graduates don’t earn as much as university graduates.
A staggering 21% of Australians believe that students choose university over VET because VET graduates earn less. From this group, 68% believe VET graduates earn on average $10,000 less than university graduates and a further 31% believed VET graduates earned $20,000 less than university graduates.
The reality is much more level. In fact the median full-time income for a VET graduate is about $2000 higher than the median full-time income for a bachelor’s degree university graduate, at $56,000 and $54,000.
And due to the specialised courses and career options for VET graduates there are courses that will yield a much higher income from the get-go. For example, a VET graduate with a Certificate IV in Hazardous Areas has an average starting salary of $84,000 whereas a university graduate with a dentistry degree has an average starting salary of $80,000.
Level up your career with VET
Once you’ve got a start in your career, you’ll be more likely to undertake VET courses for professional development. With deadlines and a full-time workload, many people feel there isn’t enough time to undertake a full post graduate program such an MBA, but there are multiple certificates and diplomas that can help you progress in your career.
Professional development often involves learning industry specific niche skills that are encapsulated in VET qualifications. Diplomas and certificates that broaden your knowledge are also popular options for PD, qualifications in business, leadership and management or quality auditing are common choices for those looking to expand their career horizons.
VET better for the economy
It’s no secret that Australia’s population is growing. It is estimated that there will be 50 million people living in Australia by 2053. This rapid population growth means that we will need to address a few issues like our skills shortage in the labor market and the unemployment rate to ensure our economy thrives in the future.
In all industries the need for skilled labour is leaving many of the unemployed, who only have a high school level education, without employment opportunities. The stats show us that this group, those who only have a high school level of education, are at the highest risk of long term unemployment.
VET is by far, the most effective way to combat this issue. VET courses can engage those who are struggling with long term unemployment. And the completion of a VET qualification has been shown to lower the likelihood of an individual becoming long-term unemployed.
Cheaper and Faster
One of the biggest selling points of VET courses is that the qualifications are cheaper and faster to get through than their university counterparts. An undergraduate bachelor’s degree costs on average $20,000 to $45,000 and takes 3 – 4 years to complete.
Whereas the average price for a VET qualification across all courses and institutions is $7,700. There are many courses that are covered by government funding programs, and lots of courses that are less expensive, with some costing as little as a few hundred dollars.
VET courses are also a lot quicker with most diploma level courses easily completed within a year and sometimes even in just 6 months.
Vocational Education and Training (VET) is a great choice for students looking for practical and hands-on career training.
Despite it’s reputation for being only for trades and technical careers, VET has a lot more to offer students, including pathways to university, qualifications in specialised and creative fields and opportunities for post graduate qualifications.
VET graduates have a stable and high employment rate of 78% and on average a VET graduate will make more per year.
It is time to break the misconceptions and give VET the recognition it deserves as a valuable and viable option for students and path forward to bolster the economy.