The honest conversation VET needs to have
Last week Jobs and Skills Australia released what will come in time to be seen as one of the most consequential reports for the VET sector in many, many years.
For the first time it provides definitive, long-term evidence that VET and higher education are not ‘almost the same’ and while people measure their lives and the contribution they make by much more than just their salary – the VET sector cannot walk away from the importance of the wages people earn after their studies, and this Jobs and Skills Australia report proves conclusively that the VET sector prepares people for jobs which (with a small number of exceptions) are not all that well paid.
It uses NCVER data and matches it with data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Tax Office(the VET National Data Asset) to track the difference that studying one of the 100 most popular VET courses makes to people’s job prospects, earnings and further study intentions.
In doing so it provides much more useful insights than are possible from the NCVER’s longstanding Student Outcomes Survey, which looks at the impact the VET sector has made on people’s lives shortly after they finish their course.
Here are the Top 20 VET courses with the highest median income after training – and what people earn in those occupations:
From the perspective of governments and the broader Australian community, the new VET Student Outcomes report contains a lot of good news. It shows, for example, the significant difference that undertaking a VET qualification makes for people with a disability in helping them move off income support payments and into paid work.
I remain passionate about the VET sector but unfortunately, for most VET graduates they will earn relatively modest salaries over their career, unlike most of their counterparts who go to university.
This report is going to have a significant impact on careers advisors and on family and student decision making. And we know that VET already struggles in this regard.
If I look at this report with my former government policymaker’s hat on – it is a great read showing that government investment in VET makes a real difference to a wide range of people.
If I read it as a parent – then unless my child has a real passion to work in a particular sector or wants to work in a traditional, well paid, ‘male’ trade then I am going to do everything I can to help them get to university…
And at a time when the Universities Accord Panel is considering how to improve pathways between VET and higher education – it is to be hoped that the Panel and the secretariat have looked carefully at the report and what the data shows (ie some occupations that higher-level VET qualifications prepare people to work in do not need or benefit from higher education qualifications, while in other areas there are already meaningful numbers of people moving from VET into higher education).