In October last year, a report by Australia’s peak industry association warned that a second big next wave of unemployment would hit in the first quarter of 2021 when an additional 120,000 young people graduate from education with “gloomy job prospects”.
With the second quarter of 2021 now upon us, schools, universities and governments are looking to soften the blow by creating new employment pathways for young people, including those who are already studying hard for the career they want.
For its part, the Federal Government recently announced a $5,000 support payment for outer regional school leavers who need to relocate for their studies.
The Tertiary Access Payment (TAP) will help students who had to relocate more than 90 minutes from their home for full-time tertiary study.
Eligible students relocating to study at a university will need to apply for the TAP through their participating university, while students relocating to study at a non-university higher education provider or a vocational education and training provider will need to apply through Services Australia.
“We know it can be tough for kids in remote areas to get a tertiary qualification, simply because of where they live and the additional financial burden of relocating to study,” Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said.
“A $5,000 helping hand will make all the difference for young Australians who are leaving home to study and will help cover costs like accommodation, groceries, bills and textbooks”.
Minister Tudge said the payments will also help improve the participation rates of Indigenous students and contribute to the government’s Closing the Gap targets.
Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education Andrew Gee said the Government was committed to supporting all school leavers, particularly those in outer regional and rural communities.
“This payment was a key recommendation made by Dr Denis Napthine in the National Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy, which our Government committed to implement,” Minister Gee said.
“We know remote and outer regional students who put off study after leaving school, generally have less likelihood of completing a degree. This measure helps deliver equality of educational opportunity for country students”.
Major challenges persist for VET sector
In January, a review of Vocational Education and Training in Australia by the Productivity Commission found that a new round of reform for the VET system is needed to deliver a more productive workforce.
“Targets have not been met and the performance framework has not held governments to account,” Commissioner Jonathan Coppel said.
“The guiding principle for the review is to strengthen the focus of the VET system on meeting the needs of its users – students and employers”.
According to the Australian Education Union, the report’s findings indicate that Australia will see a further narrowing of options for students and a “diminished” VET sector.
AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said governments must ensure that Australia’s strong TAFE system is properly funded to minimise the economic consequences of the COVID pandemic.
“TAFE is the best way to ensure that Australians can access a quality and rounded education provided by industry experts, with the extra learning supports in place that make the difference between a student passing or failing a subject,” Haythorpe said.
“Therefore, it is unbelievable that the Productivity Commission would recommend increased contestability and force TAFE to compete as ‘just another provider’ in the marketplace, when TAFE generates a staggering $92.5bn in economic benefits each year, which is 16 times the annual cost of running the institution”.
Andrew Henwood, general manager of Federation TAFE, has been playing an important role in the Pathways to Technology program (P-TECH) – an education model that provides young people from diverse backgrounds with the academic, technical, and professional skills and credentials they need for competitive tech jobs.
He says vocational education and training in 2021 will play a “vital role” in the post COVID-19 recovery.
“The importance of skill development and providing opportunities through short course or full qualifications will be critical in assisting people to return to work or seek new employment opportunities,” Henwood told The Educator.
“The important role that Fed TAFE plays in partnering with industry and community will be a feature of the future landscape as we work together to meet the needs of our local communities and build economic recovery and develop the skills required for future jobs”.
Henwood has created a pastoral care team to support students facing complex mental health and social issues in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
“The team’s commitment to student success and ensuring a holistic approach to pastoral care in a confidential and supportive environment, is a key feature of the team’s culture,” he said.
“The team prides itself on having strong links with the local community, service providers and community health organisations”.
Henwood said it is through these links that the team is able to refer or provide dedicated support that meets the needs of individual learners.
“Through this, students can seek advice, talk about issues, or have the opportunity for advocacy in identifying or negotiating reasonable adjustments to successfully complete their studies”.