Friday’s PM and premiers meeting agreed that VET is so important that they want to hear about “a new plan” for skills training early next year. Excellent – it will give them time to read Andrew Norton and Ittima Cherastidtham’s new paper
What higher education won on the swings of demand driven funding it is losing on the policy roundabouts, with capped growth in UG places and suggestions that universities have enrolled too many students unsuited to bachelor-level study.
But working on the principal that evidence should get in the way of a good story, the learned Norton and Cherastidtham conclude, “most low-ATAR higher education students are not giving up big opportunities in vocational education. Like higher education, vocational education has risks as well potential rewards.”
They find that training is not always a better career-commencing option for men and women with low-middle Academic Tertiary Admission Ranks.
While some such men who study at university would have better pay and employment prospects with a training qualification, for example in in commerce or engineering, for women with low ATARs, university qualifications in nursing and teaching lead to higher lifetime earnings and rates of professional employment than in other fields.
“Women have lower appealing vocational education options than men. Not many women choose traditionally high-paying vocational fields, such as engineering and when they do their outcomes are often poor. Hiring practises that favour men and rigid working condition prevent many women from realising their potential with these qualifications,” they conclude.
Overall, Norton and Cherastidtham argue, “a perfect match between the supply of graduates and qualification holders and demand for their services will never happen.”
But, and it is a very big but indeed, they warn this does not give the education system a pass and they call for students to receive personalised career advice.
“A good tertiary education system steers prospective students towards courses that increase their opportunities and minimise their risks. Australia’s post-school system does not always achieve this goal.”