Last week it was revealed that NSW boys are being left behind in career planning, with nearly half unsure what to do when they leave school compared to just 9% of girls, according to new research from NSW Government.
The research, conducted in partnership with Year13, Australia’s largest digital platform for high school leavers, indicates that while parents are still highly influential in guiding students in training and career choices, they were not promoting vocational education and training courses (VET), with 27% perceived to have a negative opinion of VET.
However, VET delivers training for 8 out of 10 occupations predicted to have the greatest new jobs growth to May 2022, and its alignment to the workforce makes it well placed to help fill industry skills gaps.
NSW Government’s Training Services NSW executive director, David Collins says VET opens doors to opportunity in many industries where skilled workers are in strong demand.
“VET courses lead to well-paid work in hundreds of careers and deliver the job-ready skills employers need, alongside broader ‘employability’ skills – such as active learning, leadership and complex problem-solving – that translate across all roles and industries,” Collins told The Educator.
“Apprentices and trainees ‘earn while they learn’, which gives them a financial benefit while they are in training. They also have all the normal employment benefits such as superannuation, leave entitlements and so on.”
Apprenticeships in NSW are fee-free following the NSW Government’s commitment in July 2018 to cover the $2,000 training fee for 100,000 new apprenticeships. Most VET courses blend theory in the classroom with practice in a real-world work situation.
“Students tell us they enjoy the smaller class sizes and the feeling of support provided by teachers and the broader system. VET teachers are industry professionals, and students also say they benefit from this real-world expertise,” Collins said.
VET key to skilling future workforce
Collins said VET qualifications are nationally recognised and well regarded by employers, noting that VET employment outcomes are as high as 91% for some graduates, providing a pathway to jobs in high growth industries such as healthcare and social assistance, construction and infrastructure, and education and training.
“Importantly, there are VET options available for almost anyone, regardless of their life stage, educational attainment or interests,” he said.
“Where university is generally focused on academic success, VET also recognises practical achievements.”
Collins said one man in NSW turned his hobby of building computers to land a software development traineeship at a major technology firm — a role that most people expect would need a degree.
“It’s also an education option that doesn’t discriminate. It is accessible and affordable for all, including those living with disability or disadvantage,” he said.
“Fee-free VET training is available for those living in social housing and out-of-home care, and people who are experiencing or have experienced domestic and family violence and their dependents.”
He said fee-free training is also available for asylum seekers and refugees, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with a disability, and students who are dependents of Disability Support Pension recipients.
‘Boys need additional support’
The survey released last week also shows girls are taking on careers that were once male dominated with one in four girls (23%) considering a career in science, technology, IT or engineering - while business and entrepreneurship are a popular careers choice with both genders.
NSW Government research shows that girls are generally interested in a wider range of professions than boys. Sixteen out of 20 industries were revealed to be more appealing to them.
Collins said that to open more options for boys, advice shouldn’t just focus on university or pre-determined job roles, but instead offer insights based on the skills and talents of the individual.
“Young people still place faith in advice from parents, and well-informed guidance within families will help boys feel less pressured when choosing their path,” he said.
“All teenagers need help exploring potential careers, but it is evident some boys need additional support.”
Collins said online resources, such as the vet.nsw.gov.au website, can help parents grow their knowledge and confidence in sharing advice.
“Female-dominated industries can also play a role by championing successful men within their sector,” he said.
“If boys have more male role models to relate to in areas such as teaching, they can better picture themselves on the same trajectory.”