We have a problem here in Australia. Multiple studies have found that we’re expecting to experience a skill shortage, and that our economic growth will be significantly constrained by those skill shortages.
Higher education and VET education needs to expand by 3% yearly to increase tax revenue and optimise our workforce
– Skills Australia
The university sector is already well funded, so it’s well and truly time the VET sector got some attention, and here’s why:
1. The VET system can help to address Australia’s basic skill shortages
OF AUSTRALIAN ADULTS,44%
LACK THE LITERACY SKILLS THAT PEOPLE NEED FOR BASIC EVERYDAY TASKS.
VET providers are in one of the best positions to address this shortage, by starting the conversations with Australians who may not be comfortable in a higher education, university based situation.
Jobs that were once easily completed with a lower literacy rate now require a number of forms, use computers and do a number of other jobs that require high literacy and numeracy based abilities.
Without first addressing these levels of literacy and numeracy, it’s unlikely that Australia will be able to address their skill shortages in time to keep up with our needs.
2. Increasing workforce participation in the labour market makes economic sense
Skills Australia found that if we raised workforce participation rates up from 65% to 69%, the government’s operating balances would benefit by up to 24 billion dollars annually.
This would allow for more government policies that could result in both short term and long term gains for Australia, and not just within the vocational education or higher education sectors.
Consider how many schools and hospitals would gain from a short term influx of cash, or how much pay off they would get out of long term investments in training for teachers and nurses.
VET graduates are in a prime position to be able to start working quickly, making this increase in our world of work more realistic.
3. To make these increases in the labour market, funding is required for vocational education and training.
The same study found that this expansion in participation rates would require an expansion of qualifications that would need enrollments in both higher education and VET graduates to increase by 3 percent a year.
Without this increase of level qualifications, with VET priorities, we not only won’t be able to bring the extra money into our economy, but also won’t be able to keep up with the different needs of our country
4. A new national set of priorities that focuses on successful TAFE’s and other VET schools would allow us to meet an increasing demand for workers
The last time the VET system agreed on its purpose and operating framework was back in 1974 after the Kangan Institute review of the sector.
Since then, the conversation regarding further education has largely focused on universities, with the department of education occasionally throwing the sector a bone in terms of funding.
But with an increase in workforce participation needed, the operating principles of VET and their primary purpose needs a national review to ensure that we’re future ready.
As it stands, the VET sector has been on the decline as a result of poor marketisation policies and an increase in the popularity of university degrees. Especially in cities like Melbourne or Sydney, even though those degrees don’t always result in employability.
If a new national set of priorities recognised how successful VET funding could be for a variety of groups, then economically, we’d be more set up for the future.
By prioritising VET qualifications like certificate III or diploma, and making sure that vet graduates are recognised by different industry groups, our national shortage of workers could be addressed quickly and easily.
5. VET providers are crucial for a successful workforce, especially for the disadvantaged.
While making VET a priority means navigating federal state relationships and basic questions of form, the successful implementation of VET would mean that more people could have new jobs – especially for people with social or economic disadvantages.
It makes social sense as well as economic sense for government departments and private sectors to consider how VET providers create opportunities for the disadvantaged.
VET priorities make sense for both economic and social reasons. Investing in VET systems means that we’ll be able to both improve tax revenue from workers and meet a potential worker shortage.
As well as increasing adult literacy rates and ensuring that the disadvantaged in society continue to benefit from the system.