Once upon a time being prepared for work required students to spend three years writing essays, experimenting in labs and doing exams to complete a degree or certification.
Post-completion, they would secure a grad-job in the industry of their choice where employers would mould their knowledge and help them apply it to the needs of their role and organisation.
But today, the world of work and consequently the expectations of graduates, are markedly different.
According to FYA’s New Work Reality report, despite being more educated than ever before with 60% of Australian 25 year-olds holding a post-secondary qualification, half of them are unable to secure work by the same age.
75% of young people believe that a key reason they can’t get work is because they don’t have the skills employers are looking for or the know-how to put them into practice in the work environment.
These are realistic perceptions.
Employer demand for enterprise skills such as creativity, communication, digital literacy, problem solving and critical thinking, is higher than ever, and employers are willing to pay more for them. In addition, jobs in the future will require 30% more time learning on the job by 2030.
In the ongoing drive for efficiency and competitiveness, education and training are now seen as the responsibility of the post-secondary sector. Graduates face a wider set of expectations not only to learn and regurgitate subject matter, but to adapt it and put it to use almost immediately.
We need a different approach, where learning is not separated from doing. This system should include employers not just as consumers of skills but as key developers and delivery arms to ensure graduates are able to make a faster, smoother transition from education to work.
Policy makers should consider new models for work integrated learning to ensure young people can gain the critical relevant work experience they need alongside their education. This can be through encouraging forms of learning and training that build in relevant paid employment, such as apprenticeships. While apprenticeships are currently largely focussed on trade professions, there is an opportunity to expand the model and pivot to more future focussed industries. This can be done through new pathway models such as higher apprenticeships.
Already there are some interesting examples of this cropping up in Australia and overseas. Here are three countries doing things differently when it comes to work integrated models of learning:
Long held on a pedestal as a shining example of how to implement Vocational Education and Training programs that work for young people and industry, Germany puts young people through three-year traineeships where they spend 50% of the time in classroom instruction and 50% of the time at on-the-job training. Around 52% percent of all young Germans graduate from Dual VET apprenticeships, showcasing the incredible success of their programs.
Another great example of dual-education in action comes from Belgium. Here, Flemish employers are working with secondary school level institutions where young people spend 60% of their time in the workplace and 40% in traditional school.
South Korea has a digital system for lifelong learning – called an ‘Academic Credit Bank System’ – where you ‘deposit’ education and experiences and it recognises various learning experiences acquired both inside and outside of traditional school settings. These experiences are granted academic credits which can be used to acquire a bachelor’s degree.
These examples of work-integrated models offer opportunities to step into the workplace, get a feel for what a profession is like, and understand what the job would demand. It provides the opportunity to understand in real time the importance of being able to work as part of a teamwork for mutual goals, self-management, and communication beyond the classroom or textbook.
The new reality of work is here to stay. We can’t press pause on change, or halt the increasing demands on our young people. But we can set them up for success with a ‘real world’ model of learning that brings education and work together.
So what could this look like for Australia? We’d love to hear about thoughts, models in action or institutions doing things differently. Share with us via firstname.lastname@example.org