Will VET plug the skills gap in a disruptive economy?

Will VET plug the skills gap in a disruptive economy?

As the workplace changes, so too are employer expectations of our graduates.

In Australia, employers are demanding transferable enterprise skills from graduates across organisations 70% more than in the past. Skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and presentation skills. Employers value enterprise skills and are willing to pay a premium of over $8,800 for young job seekers who have them. Undertaking courses which enhance and embed these skills can increase the speed to full-time work by up to 17 months.

Foundational, and technical or job specific skills will still be important in the future. However, in an age where smart machines will be able to do many of the routine or manual tasks in our jobs, technical skill will be necessary, but not sufficient. The ability to be aware of others’ reactions and understand why they respond in certain ways will become a highly valued and necessary skill for workers in the future.

Graduates also require practical application of their skills, not only to learn and regurgitate subject matter, but to have opportunities to apply their learning hands on and immediately.

However, locally, as well as globally, a gap already exists between the demand and supply of people with these skills. FYA’s most recent report The New Work Reality showed that 75% of young people believe that a key reason they can’t get full-time 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. More than 50% of young Australians aged 25 struggle to secure full-time work despite being better educated than ever before. A quarter of entry-level employers report having difficulty filling vacancies because applicants lack employability skills.

With industry demands of young workers changing a new approach is emerging.

Our learning systems need employers to engage as co-designers of real world learning to ensure graduates are able to make a faster, smoother transition from education to work. Education institutions need to keep pace with rapid change. Our policymakers need to consider better integrating work and immersive, real world learning throughout all of education.

But while we push for these changes, where do young people get access to opportunities to learn by doing?

Across the economy as work is being transformed, vocational education and training (VET) offers a real opportunity to help our workforce get future-fit.

On our kindest of days, most Australians believe that VET is ‘stuck in the past’. Recent research shows that only 24% of people think VET courses are focused on jobs of the future. Four in five parents would prefer their children go to university after leaving school rather than undertake a vocational training pathway.

But with a direct connection to industry, geographically accessible and often more affordable, VET institutions are uniquely positioned to prepare current and future workers for a changing economy – and to keep up with the changing demands of employers.

Far from preparing students for low-skilled, low-paid or low-future work, VET produces skilled graduates with hands-on work experience under their belt. These graduates often go on to jobs with employment opportunities and remuneration on a par with those of university grads.

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.

National Skills Week celebrates the diverse career pathways available through Vocational Education and Training. Want to know more about how young people are navigating the world of work? See FYA’s series ‘How I Got the Job’ here or take a look at www.myskills.gov.au


FYA partnered with the Federal Department of Education and Training to highlight the real stories behind young Australians navigating the world of work, especially those taking up VET pathways. The How I Got The Job series shows just some of the many different options out there.


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