Government targets VET Pathway reform to encourage more students into trades

Paul Eyers
Paul Eyers
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The Australian government has unveiled plans to fully renovate the nation’s vocational education and training system to get more students into trade careers.

The objectives were outlined as part of a new employment white paper released by the treasury this week as a roadmap to achieve sustainable employment, wage and productivity growth over the coming decades.

The Working Future: The Australian Government’s White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities report aims to put VET pathways on an equal footing with higher education by ensuring students are presented with information and choices that raise awareness of the career opportunities a VET pathway provides.  

The Federal Government’s ambitious blueprint commits to fast-tracking up to six TAFE Centres of Excellence, developing widely accessible degree-level higher apprenticeships and considering the introduction of National Skills Passports among tradespeople.

The plans are designed to address skills shortages within the trades sector, with a peak national employer organisation, the Australian Industry Group, predicting 45 per cent of all jobs will require a vocational qualification by 2030.

Megan Lilly, AI Group’s Head of Centre for Education and Training, told The Bursar that providing school students with more information on VET pathways and hearing from successful young tradespeople was critical to encouraging higher student uptake into trade careers.

“The universities are very good at promoting their pathways to school students,” she says. “They are present at every careers event, they stage open days every year and they have fantastic glossy promotional material. Trades need to be able to compete with that.”

Ms Lily believes there are “great positives from trade pathways” but adds that “those positives need to be more prominently displayed”.

The government’s ambitious VET pathway plans were praised by Master Builders Australia, whose research earlier this year forecast the need for 486,000 new entrants into the trades industry over the next three years.

“The building and construction industry needs to attract around 230,000 technicians and tradies, the vast majority of whom will need to enter the industry through a trade apprenticeship,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said.

“Policies that prioritise attracting, recruiting, training and retaining workers in the industry will be vital to ensure Australia’s housing and infrastructure needs can be delivered.” 

VET system reform paves way for prepared, fairly paid workforce

The whitepaper states VET system reform is crucial in preparing tomorrow’s workforce for future challenges such as a rise in demand for care and support services, increased use of digital and advanced technologies and Australia’s net zero by 2050 carbon emission targets.

“VET and higher education must be presented as options with different but equally rewarding career paths to secure, fairly paid jobs,” the report states.

“We have historically viewed higher education and VET as two separate pathways but addressing the skills needs of the future will require more collaboration.”

“Reform is needed to help students study and upskill across both VET and higher education over their lifetime, to take advantage of new opportunities presented by structural change as the skills demanded by industry changes.”

To read the Australian Government’s White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities in full, visit the Treasury Website.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with a singular perspective on the world.