Australia’s international student boom predicted to end as student visa applications show downward spiral
Read more here: https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2019/10/australia-taps-new-boom-market-for-international-students/
The Morrison Government’s renewed commitment to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector will make it central to shaping Australia’s workforce for the future.
Speaking at the 28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference today, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, said she would lift the profile of Australia’s VET sector and aim to make it the first choice in post-school learning for millions of Australians.
“It is a valuable career choice for many Australians and should not be seen as being something less important than a university degree,” Minister Cash said.
More than 4 million people undertook vocational education and training in 2017. At the end of last year, there were more than a quarter of a million apprentices and trainees.
“We know that people with VET qualifications are highly regarded and sought after by employers, but we need more people to choose VET as their path to success,” Minister Cash said.
“The Morrison Government already has in place a number of programs and tools designed to increase the profile of the sector and encourage more Australians to choose a VET qualification.
“These programs will be especially important because, as our economy evolves and our workforce changes, VET will be the way we train and re-train the workforce of the future.
Minister Cash also delivered a message to education providers of the VET sector that more cooperation with industry was required to create better outcomes for students.
“Employers look to vocationally trained workers because of their suitability in skills and experience. Australia’s VET system must better connect with industry, respond to community needs, and have clear, consistent funding.
And with the growth in the VET sector, Minister Cash said there was always room for improvements.
“The sector still bears some of the scars of Labor’s mismanagement of bad student loans, underfunded courses, quality issues and the diminishing of TAFE.
“It is this Government’s promise to continue the hard work of reforming the sector, providing better quality courses, and better outcomes for trainees and employers.”
The Australian Government’s $525 million Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package announced in the April Budget will also ensure that the sector can help supply Australia’s future workforce.
The package provides every Australian with the opportunity to grow the skills needed to succeed in an evolving workforce and, concurrently offers employers a pipeline of qualified workers they need to grow and prosper.
Minister Cash said the package reflects the Morrison Government’s commitment to growing the number of new apprenticeships.
“Under our landmark skills package, up to 80,000 additional apprenticeships will be created over the next five years in priority skill shortage areas, assisted by new apprenticeship incentives. Youth unemployment will be targeted with an offering of 400 scholarships in regional Australia to the value of $8 million.
“The Government is committed to creating more than 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and I’m confident that more and more of the people filling these positions will be coming to employers through the VET system,” Minister Cash said.
Australia prides itself as a safe travel destination, however, the latest series of robberies and physical attacks targeting international students in Melbourne is alarming. Moreover, the Australian media believes that international students are treated as “cash cows”, raising serious concerns about the safety and wellbeing of foreign students in Australia.
International education is a lucrative industry in Australia, with more than 500,000 international students contributing nearly A$32 billion into Australia’s economy. International education was also the third-largest export earner for the country, according to a statement by Universities Australia’s Deputy Chief Executive Anne-Marie Lansdown, released last year.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government was working in collaboration with education providers to “ensure Australia is a safe and welcoming country for international students”.
Several safety policies and frameworks were employed in the country, including the 2018 National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students which requires education providers to give foreign students information in relation to on-campus safety. It also entails that varsities should employ staff and other support mechanisms to help students in matters pertaining to health or counselling, with immediate actions against critical incidents such as cases of violence, aggression, physical or sexual assault.
Majority of Australian universities have good safety measures employed at their respective campuses such as CCTV camera coverage, emergency phone points and active security services patrolling. However, a major challenge for universities lies in protecting international students travelling to and from the university and also in their local communities.
University students were often victimised on public transports. According to a Melbourne-based study, nearly 80 percent of surveyed female students said they ‘had been victims of comments, advances, groping, or being followed on public transport” in the last three years. More than half of the surveyed men reported that they were mistreated in public transports. Another study found international students were more likely to report safety threats on racial, religious or cultural grounds than domestic students
Different Australian universities are also taking a lead to handle the matter at hand. Griffith University offers self-defense classes to their students and staff so that they can protect themselves and can develop strategies to avoid personal harm or injury. Several universities have MATES (Mentoring and Transition Equals Success) or equivalent mentoring program for new students to connect them with already enrolled students and learn about university life in Australia. This network can also be used to create awareness about international student safety.
The government has said it will continue with its reforms within the Technical, Vocational, Education and Training sector (TVET) with the aim of enrolling at least 5 million youths in the institutions by 2022.These reforms will be considered as part of the government’s procedures to address the level of unemployment in the country and bridge the skills gaps identified by potential employers.Speaking at the first ever China and Africa TVET Cooperation conference, the Deputy Director of TVET in the Ministry of Education Bernard Shikoli affirmed that the collaboration is guaranteed to strengthen and revitalise the TVET sector.“I applaud this initiative and give assurance of the ministry’s commitment and support for cooperation in Technical and vocational education with the Chinese technical and vocational institutions,” said Shikoli.
SEE ALSO :MPs want prompt funding for TVET
He added that this collaboration is supposed to help in achieving the Big Four Agenda as well as the Vision 2030.The National polytechnics and Technical Vocational colleges have recorded an increase from 2017 where they registered 98,000 youths compared to the 181,000 youths registered in 2019.Shikoli similarly noted that the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) allocation and capacitation needed to be increased with aim of matching the uptake of trainees in the TVET institutions.“We are also going to deploy about 2000 trainers across the TVET programmes in technical colleges to enhance the deliverance of much needed information,” said Shikoli.He declared that the steps taken will enable the youth to be equipped enough to be absorbed in the manufacturing sector as competent employees.
The Head of Kinyanjui Technical Institute Sam Waititu attested to the deliverance of advanced equipment in technical institutes.“The equipment is both manual and computerised, which I believe has built confidence in students in terms of enrolling in TVET institutes,” said Waititu.
Canada, the UK and Australia are three popular study destinations for students looking to study internationally. But, Canada vs the UK vs Australia – which country is the best for international students?
Canada hosts three universities ranked in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings – Toronto University, McGill University and the University of British Columbia. Seven Australian universities feature in the top 100, including the Australian University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney. Meanwhile, the UK has a whopping 18 universities in the top 100! These include
Each of these countries has something quite different to offer. The beautiful mountains of Canada, stunning beaches of Australia and exciting cities of the UK may all appeal to you – but which country really does offer the best university experience? Read this article to find out more.
Weather in the UK is, unfortunately, generally mild and rainy. Although the summer and winter seasons offer extremes of warm summer days and snowfall, rain is the more commonly found weather from throughout the year. In the summertime, temperatures generally sit between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, whereas winters are much cooler at around 0 to 7 degrees Celsius.
The weather in Canada varies across the country, depending on the location at which you choose to study. The country stretches across five time zones from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and its weather is just as broad ranging. Toronto offers a cold and snowy winter with an average temperature of -4.6 degrees Celsius. It can get as low as -20 sometimes!
And take note, this is considered a milder winter temperature than found in other Ontario towns and cities. The summers in Toronto tend to be hotter than the UK with temperatures averaging 20 to 35-degree Celsius.
One reason for Australia being such a popular study destination is the amazing weather it offers year round. In contrast to the often cold weather found in Canada and the UK, Australia offers much more sunny climes, and beautiful beaches to enjoy it on, too!
Tuition Fee Costs
Tuition fees for an undergraduate course in the UK average US$10,000 – US$19,000 per year. For postgraduate courses, tuition fees average at a higher cost of US$12,500 – US$25,000 per year.
Average fees in Canada are broader and offer both cheaper and more expensive options than the UK, dependent on your programme of study and choice of institution. The bottom end of the average in Canada is lower than the UK, with average undergraduate fees starting at US$7,500. However, the average tuition fee cost in Canada goes up to US$22,000. Postgraduate fees average at a similar price to those in the UK, ranging from US$11,000 to US$26,000.
Tuition fees in Australia average higher than those in the UK and Canada. In 2018, the cost of tuition fees for international undergraduate students was estimated to be US$22,100 per year, whilst for international postgraduate students, the average was US$22,700.
Cost of Living
In addition to tuition fees, other costs need to be considered when thinking about studying abroad. The average cost of living that includes the cost of rent and living expenses for the duration of the course is important.
In the UK, rent and living costs are estimated at between US$12,000 and US$15,000 per year. Most undergraduate degrees (except for languages and medicine related programmes) tend to last for three years in the UK. That makes a total cost of living of $36,000 – $45,000 for the duration of a UK undergraduate degree programme. This price is likely to increase if you choose to study in one of the more expensive cities, such as London.
The cost of living in Canada for international students is cheaper than in the UK. It is estimated that US$7,500 to US$9,000 is needed for rent and living expenses each year. Again, this will of course increase if you are living in one of the more pricier cities, such as Vancouver. However, it is important to note that degree programmes in Canada are four years long.
So, although the yearly cost is cheaper, over the course of study you will need US$30,000 to US$36,000 in total, making it only slightly less expensive than the UK.
As part of the visa application process, potential international students for Australia must prove that they have access to US$14,000 per year to cover the costs of living. Australia is known to be a very expensive country. For residents there, wages are much higher than for people in other countries, and so the high cost of rent and consumables does not cause them any problems.
However, for students, it will mean that you must carefully budget. Undergraduate degree programmes in Australia are generally three years in length, the same as the UK, meaning that a total of US$42,000 is required in total to cover the cost of studying for a degree in Australia.
Postgraduate study is 1-2 years in all three countries.
Opportunities for Permanent Residency
It has become increasingly difficult for international students to remain in the UK and seek employment upon graduation over the past seven years. In 2012, then Home Secretary Theresa May, changed the law so that students could only stay in the UK for two months after the end of their studies.
The government later recognised this as unfair and extended it to two years. University organisations and some politicians are now lobbying for this to be further extended to two years. However, it is still stuck at six months at this current time.
In contrast, Canada has a low population and is often seeking individuals to take on highly skilled workers. It, therefore, offers many more opportunities to international students to remain in the country upon graduation. It’s a visa program, the PGWP (Post-Graduate Work Permit) allows students to stay and work in the country for three years if the application is successful. Once this visa has been approved, students are then able to apply for permanent residency.
Australia is also more open to international students remaining at the end of their studies. It offers a Skilled-Graduate Temporary visa that allows international students to stay in Australia for 18 months after graduation. This can be to gain additional work experience or even travel around the country! The Skilled-Independent (Resident) Visa can be applied for to give permanent residency to those who have completed two years of study in Australia.
- TDA 2019 Convention: The Power of TAFE launched – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
- PM is a ‘champion’ of VET: Steven Joyce
- Queensland budget injects funds for TAFE, apprenticeships and skill sets
- South Metropolitan TAFE joins WA government and industry to deliver automation skills
- New Zealand ad campaign confronts the ‘shock’ of VET
- Financial support to help young carers continue their education
- Use of digital media in TVET set to feature in international exposition
- A belated congratulations to Ron Wright on his Queen’s Birthday Honour
- CISA national conference
- Diary Dates
TDA 2019 Convention: The Power of TAFE launched – comment by CEO Craig Robertson
WE NEED TO BE FUTURE FOCUSED
Digital disruption of the workplace will require a significant relook at how workers are educated and trained for work, a new report has found.
Findings by Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce in the report Peak Human Potential – Preparing Australia’s workforce for the digital future are based on a national survey of 1,000 working Australians from a range of job roles and industry sectors.
In what is a unique perspective these days, the report concludes from the views of workers that, firstly, the more an industry is disrupted by technology, the more they value social competencies such as collaboration, empathy and entrepreneurial skills. Workers, secondly, prefer to learn on the job to prepare for the change.
Director of the Centre and report author, Dr Sean Gallagher, says that “The more digital our workplaces become, the more human we need to be as workers. Workers understand that social competencies – such as collaboration, empathy and entrepreneurial skills – are uniquely human and less vulnerable to being displaced by sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies.”
We at TDA welcome the report. TAFEs and dual sector universities are uniquely placed to deliver on the skills workers need for the future. These institutes are the most experienced in delivery in the workplace for the workplace. With full industry coverage they can bring the range of knowledge and skills to the upskilling experience. This is important because technology usually brings convergence, often unanticipated, of technology and process, but with unique application. Know-how will be more important than ever – and that’s what the TAFE model delivers.
The report aptly issues the challenge:
We need to lift all workers into the digital economy by providing basic digital training. Many of these future skills are best provided through vocational education, especially within a more coherent tertiary education system. But for learning and work to converge, we need a learning infrastructure that brings education providers and employers together, too.
The future of tertiary education in Australia is bound to be debated further this year. At the centre of that dialogue must be its purposes for the Australian community, as must the unique role of TAFE.
THE POWER OF TAFE
The unique roles played by TAFEs underpin this year’s TDA convention. The Power of TAFE is the theme and will celebrate that place and purpose of TAFE, which is important in Australia’s education history and is so important for Australia’s future.
The Convention will showcase innovation and excellence of TAFE Queensland through the site visit to SkillsTech, Acacia Ridge and the welcome reception at the South Bank campus. The main program is being held at the Brisbane Hilton with sessions including keynote presentations, facilitated panel discussions and workshops.
Registrations are open now for the TDA Convention 2019 at the Hilton Hotel Brisbane, Tuesday 3 September to Thursday 5 September 2019. Don’t miss the opportunity for early bird registrations.
Register now via www.tdaconvention.com.au. Early registration closes on Monday 22 July.
Keep an eye out for the call for speaker proposals to be released this week.
All enquiries, including for sponsors and exhibitors can be directed to email@example.com.
Tae Yoo, Senior Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility with CISCO has said, “… the concept of skilling, reskilling and lifelong learning is not new. What is new is that the pace of disruption is faster than ever; educational and career pathways are less defined; and the need for perpetual learning is the new normal”. In further words that resonate with the purpose we have for TAFEs, Tae adds:
Together, we have the power to inspire, connect, and deliver on new opportunities and rich experiences that can open doors to innovation and progress while growing global economies and increasing well-being.
Finally, if you are interested in news on TVET from around the globe I recommend you read the latest newsletter of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics.
PM is a ‘champion’ of VET: Steven Joyce
The architect of the federal government’s recent VET review, Steven Joyce (pictured), has described Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a “champipon” of the VET sector, and says he doesn’t believe that political divisions should stand in the way of his key findings being adopted.
Mr Joyce, the former New Zealand minister responsible for tertiary education and skills, said his report was well received by the government, particularly by Mr Morrison who, he said is committed to real reform of the VET sector.
“It’s something I know the PM is very passionate about,” he said.
“He’s very, very passionate about vocational education and he thinks it’s underweight in Australia.
“So, you’ve got a real champion there,” he said in comments to the NSW and ACT Apprentice Employment Network conference in Sydney last Thursday.
He also expanded on other aspects of his report, including:
- Saying he doesn’t see the VET system (with the possible exception of policies around TAFE) being so overtly political that it should threaten a national agreement to make the system run better.
- Conceded that despite the reform effort in New Zealand, the country’s polytechnics are now struggling.
- Said the planned national skills commission would have a strong focus on skills forecasting, acknowledging that “initially it’s not going to be that accurate but it’s going to evolve over time”.
- Dismissed a suggestion he might be a candidate to head the new skills commission.
- Warned that poor quality VET-in-Schools programs may be actually worsening the job prospects of some VET secondary school students.
- Said one of the “best and simplest” ideas from the New Zealand experience was the colour-coding of school subjects so students could identify university and vocational choices.
- Said he was “a fan of group training organisations” and saw them working in partnership with the proposed new skills organisations.
- Cautioned that the VET brand was “too broad” and “confused”, and should be narrowed, with a higher profile on new occupations such as those in the digital sector.
Queensland budget injects funds for TAFE, apprenticeships and skill sets
The Queensland state budget has delivered an additional $24 million as part of a $978 million skills and training package.
The Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said the state’s capital works program will more than double, with over $105 million in upgrades to TAFE facilities.
It includes upgrades at TAFE campuses on the Gold Coast, Alexandra Hills and Mt Gravatt, and continuing works at Pimlico, Townsville and Toowoomba.
There will also be a new higher level apprenticeships pilot program with industry to develop training pathways on top of the traditional apprenticeship program.
There will be a three-year, $5.5 million micro-credentialing pilot project to investigate skill sets and short courses in new technologies.
South Metropolitan TAFE joins WA government and industry to deliver automation skills
The West Australian government has launched two new cutting edge courses to be delivered through TAFE as part of the joint industry initiative to equip the workforce for a new era of automation.
The Premier Mark McGowan and Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery announced that the automation courses will commence at South Metropolitan TAFE’s Munster campus from the second semester of this year.
It is the first achievement of the Resource Industry Collaboration between the state government, South Metropolitan TAFE and Rio Tinto, which contributed $2 million to the new training program.
The Certificate II in Autonomous Workplace Operations will be delivered as a pilot VET for secondary students, while the micro-credential course, Working Effectively in an Automation Workplace, is a skill set that trade qualified workers and apprentices can use to improve their skills in automation.
Premier Mark McGowan said it was a great example of industry working in partnership to ensure the training sector creates a highly skilled workforce.
New Zealand ad campaign confronts the ‘shock’ of VET
A New Zealand apprenticeship company has taken a novel approach to changing the image of VET and, in particular, the attitudes of parents, as part of a new advertising campaign featuring on social media.
Some are asking, is this what Australia needs?
Watch the ad here.
Financial support to help young carers continue their education
A fresh round of financial support is available to help with the education of young people who are caring for aged family or friends, and those in areas such as disability, physical or mental illness and substance dependency.
The Young Carer Bursaries support young carers to continue with their education through a limited number of $3,000 bursaries available each year.
It’s open to young people aged 12 to 25 providing unpaid care and support, and undertaking study including at TAFE.
Applications for 2020 open 23 July.
Use of digital media in TVET set to feature in international exposition
Those involved in the use of digital media in TVET have the chance to apply and present to an international audience later this year.
UNESCO-UNEVOC is partnering with the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training in Germany (BIBB) to identify good practices from Asia-Pacific for the use of digital media in the field of TVET.
It will show the potential of applied digital learning opportunities and identify viable solutions for their sustainable integration into TVET.
A call for application has been issued and selected applicants will be invited to present at the BIBB International Roadshow 2019 – Digital Media in TVET that will take place at the Worlddidac Asia on October 10 in Bangkok.
Interested applicants are invited to submit their application by 15 July to firstname.lastname@example.org. You are kindly requested to also copy the UNEVOC Network coordination team via E-mail: email@example.com when applying.
A belated congratulations to Ron Wright on his Queen’s Birthday Honour
In our coverage last week of VET leaders named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, we missed one important name – Ron Wright (pictured), who was awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service to skills development programs and infrastructure projects in NSW.
Ron, who is now a consultant, was the man behind the TAFE NSW Skills Point that saw thousands of workers gain skills and qualifications working on the massive Barangaroo project on the Sydney Harbour foreshore.
It was, and remains, a benchmark for large scale training on infrastructure and major works, and enabled thousands of new workers to enter the industry and gain skills on a world-leading project.
Our congratulations to Ron on this much-deserved award.
CISA national conference
You can engage with international students at the conference of the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) in Perth from 15-19 July 2019.
22nd Annual Conference of the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA)
No future for old VET’: Researching for the training system/s of tomorrow
17-18 June 2019
Western Sydney University and University College, Parramatta, Sydney
No Frills 2019: The student journey: skilling for life
28th National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference
NCVER with TAFE SA
10-12 July 2019
TAFE SA Adelaide Campus, 120 Currie Street, Adelaide, South Australia
CISA (Council of International Students Australia) National Conference
15-19 July 2019
Perth, Western Australia
National Apprentice Employment Network
2019 National Conference
31 July – 2 August 2019
Crowne Plaza, Gold Coast
QLD School VET Conference
9 August 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
VTA 2019 State Conference
15 – 16 August 2019
RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Save the date
National Manufacturing Summit
21 & 22 August 2019
National Skills Week
26 August – 1 September 2019
Locations around Australia
TAFE Directors Australia 2019 Convention
‘The Power of TAFE’
3 – 5 September 2019
2019 National VET Conference
12 &13 September 2019
Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
Community Colleges Australia 2019 Annual Conference
18-20 November 2019
The Stamford Plaza Hotel, Brisbane
Australian Training Awards
21 November 2019
Australian Council of Deans of Education Vocational Education Group
5th Annual Conference on VET Teaching and VET Teacher Education
9-10 December 2019
Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga Campus
Picture: Getty Images
Australia’s tertiary education sector needs “urgent” reform as the participation rate of young Australians declines, a new report from the Mitchell Institute has warned.
The report shows a projected participation decline of around 16% over the next 10 years, while the “vast majority” of jobs will require post-school training.
Roughly 96% of the 1.1 million jobs created by 2021 will demand university or Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications, the analysis said.
Victoria University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins has called for policy changes to allow students to obtain crucial skills and meet industry demands.
“Major reforms are needed to tertiary education to boost participation rates, respond to a rapidly changing industry sector, better deliver for the diversity of students now seeking to study in tertiary education, and maintain Australia’s prosperity,” he said.
Policies such as up-front fees cause many students to miss out on job opportunities, Dawkins said.
“It is both unfair and inefficient that only students studying undergraduate courses and some TAFE courses can access student loans to cover fees,” he said.
“Similarly, low-income Australians can access income support for undergraduate studies but not for many postgraduate or VET courses.
“These policies need to change to provide greater opportunity for young Australians and meet the demands of industry.”
Higher quality VET courses, completed subject credits for students transitioning from VET to university, a greater proportion of higher education entry-level courses provided by the VET sector, and practical apprenticeships integrated with theoretical components at university and VET would be more cost effective and efficient for students.
“Industry is telling us it wants graduates to be job-ready, which is why on-the-job training is so crucial. Extending apprenticeships to the professional sector along with new technical apprenticeships presents a significant opportunity to boost the quality and work readiness of our graduates,” Dawkins said.
Innovative teaching models, like Victoria University’s intensive “VU Way” model, are also needed to support learning for a diverse range of students, Dawkins said.
The Mitchell Institute has suggested the following reforms:
- A more equitable approach to student loans.
- An improved funding model to boost participation.
- Better connection between the VET and university sectors.
- Expansion of traditional apprenticeships to new industries and occupations including the professional sector.
- Innovation in teaching.
“It is this type of innovation that is needed to improve the quality of education for all students, better support disadvantaged students, improve the quality of graduate for industry and deliver cost savings.”
As lawmakers and students grow weary of the rising cost of higher education, vocational training programs are drawing more attention and funding. But a new report finds that these programs are wildly out of step with the needs of today’s job market. To provide a real alternative to higher education, states and schools offering vocational programs should align vocational education with market needs.
Career and Technical Education programs offer options for students looking to avoid student loan debt. These programs equip high school and post-secondary students with the skills and credentials they need to secure jobs for tens of thousands of dollars less than the cost of a traditional 4-year college degree. However, most students are pursuing—and taxpayers are funding—credentials that offer little access to jobs, let alone well-paid ones.
The Foundation for Excellence in Education, a national education research organization, partnered with Burning Glass Technologies, a job market research firm to study U.S. vocational education. They found that in the 24 states they studied, the credentials students earn through career and technical education do not align with job markets.
In total, the study found that for 10 of the top 15 most popular credentials, students are earning more credentials than there are jobs available. In some cases, these credentials lead to no job opportunities at all. “General Career Readiness” credentials, such as financial literacy and basic first aid, for example, account for 28% of credentials earned, yet the study reported zero market demand for them.
Even when students do find jobs with low-demand credentials, they are often low-paying. According to data from the study and the Bureau of Labor statistics, only four of the top nine licenses earned by K-12 students lead to jobs with annual median salaries of approximately $35,000 or more. By contrast, median U.S. household income in 2017 totaled $60,336, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Worse yet, taxpayers are footing the bill for these programs. A recent oversight reportfound that in the last few years, the U.S. Department of Education spent hundreds of millions of dollars on vocational education programs including hair and beauty schools, gaming and bartending classes, refrigeration school, and a Professional Golfers Career College. Last year, Congress agreed to channel and additional $1.2 billion to career and technical education over the next six years, and states augment this funding with hundreds of millions of dollars of their own resources.
Instead of funding credentials that translate to few or no jobs, these resources could be helping students obtain credentials that position them for available jobs with significant salaries. For example, the Foundation for Excellence in Education study found that employers are looking to fill tens of thousands of jobs with employees who have EEG/EKG/ECG Certifications, CompTIA A+ Security+ certifications, and with Cisco Certified Network Associates—positions that come with median annual salaries between $50,132 to $82,296 per year.
If the states and nation are earnest about making career and technical programs a viable path to gainful employment, they must do more than fund these programs, they should align the credentials they offer with market demands.
Finland’s vocational education program, for example, is shaped by just such analysis. According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, The Finnish National Board of Education determines what vocational education will be offered throughout the country based on regularly updated analysis of projections for what the the nation’s industry needs will be in 15 years.
This program has proved both popular and successful at helping Finnish students secure jobs. At age 16, Finnish students choose whether to focus on preparing for university or to pursue vocational education. According to the Organization for Economic Development, Finland has one the highest enrollment rates in upper secondary vocational education, with 71% of upper secondary students enrolled in vocational education programs. And overall, Finnish vocational graduates (age 20-64) experience a 73.4% employment rate, several percentage points higher than average vocational graduate employment rate in the European Union.
The United States could do similarly. Industry needs vary from state to state, so states and schools could optimize career and technical education resources by auditing which credentials are in demand in the labor market, and then directing students and funding to those credentials. These adjustments would benefit employers seeking qualified employees in high-demand fields, students seeking cost-effective paths to employment, and schools whose increased graduate employment rates attract more potential students.
Vocational education programs offer students tremendous education opportunities, but with some intentional adjustments, we can make them even more practical.