What do Australians really know about VET pathways?

Jul 28, 2014
WorldSkills Australia

A National Survey conducted by WorldSkills Australia to gather a better understanding of the knowledge and perceptions of Australians towards the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

Executive Summary

In June 2014, WorldSkills Australia undertook a quantitative survey focused on better understanding the knowledge and perceptions of the vocational education and training (VET) sector. The results showed a significant lack of understanding of the sector, with one in four Australians admitting to not knowing what is meant by the term “vocational education and training”.

The research also showed that many Australians are unaware of the education and training options available to them– more than a third (38 per cent) were unaware that jewellery is offered as a VET qualification, one quarter didn’t know bricklaying qualifications were offered and one in five weren’t aware plumbing was offered.

Many Australians believe a trade-based career is aspirational (76 per cent) yet more than two thirds have never considered following a trade-based pathway, suggesting a perception problem or a lack of understanding about what the sector can offer.

Overall, the study suggests that more should be done to educate people as to the options available to young Australians as they prepare to enter the workforce. In addition, the sector needs to better communicate its contribution to the Australian economy, while continuing to encourage investment in, and recruitment to, our vocational workforce.

Results Summary:

National

A lack of education

  • Knowledge gaps: The VET sector is consistently misunderstood, with one quarter of us admitting to not knowing what is meant by the term “vocational education and training”
  • A shortage of knowledge and skills: Sixty per cent admitted to not knowing what careers were on the skills shortage list, highlighting a lack of careers in demand
  • Not knowing your options: Australians are also a little unclear when it comes to knowing what is offered by the vocational education and training sector, with 38 per cent of respondents not knowing jewellery is offered as a VET qualification, one quarter not knowing bricklaying was offered and one in five not aware that plumbing was offered
  • We know what we see: Customer service-oriented trades such as hospitality, hairdressing and computer technology were the most widely recognised as VET qualifications. In all three examples, nine out of 10 people identified them as VET qualifications. This compares to jewellery making, with 62 per cent recognition of the career requiring a TAFE qualification, and bricklaying, with 74 per cent recognition.

Uptake of VET

  • Generational uptake: While 37 per cent of Australians have a member of their family employed in the vocational sector, the percentage increases generationally – 46 per cent of people over 70 have a relative in a trade, compared to just 34 per cent of Gen Y (21 – 30 year olds)

A misunderstood career

  • Unknown earnings: Many Australians aren’t able to identify the remuneration potential for key trades, with 51 per cent underestimating what a bricklayer gets paid
  • Unconsidered pathways: Many Australians are also reluctant to commit to the idea of a trade-based career – more than two thirds of us have never considered a career in a trade-based industry. This is despite 76 per cent of us recognising it as an aspirational employment prospect
  • Trade-based blokes: Men are far more likely to consider a career in a trade – more than a third (37 per cent) would follow a vocational pathway, compared to just 27 per cent of women

A perception problem

  • An open mind: People with diplomas and certificates are most likely to encourage their child to pursue whatever career option suits them (72 per cent), while 41 per cent of those with a university degree or higher said they would prefer their child complete a degree
  • Generation Degree: Young people are significantly more likely to believe that a university degree will put their children ahead, with 36 per cent of 21-30 year olds saying they’d encourage a degree, compared to 19 per cent of people over 60
  • On the way up: While two thirds of people believe trade based careers are better respected today than 10 years ago, one quarter of us don’t see a trade-based career an aspirational employment prospect
  • A female aspiration: Women are more likely to see trades as aspirational – 79 per cent felt a trade-based career was an ambitious goal, compared to just 72 per cent of men

State comparisons

Back to basics: Canberra residents have the basics down pat when it comes to vocational education. When asked if they understand what is meant by “vocational education and training”, people in the ACT had the highest knowledge, at 81 per cent understanding. The full breakdown is:

  1. ACT: 81.4 per cent
  2. WA: 80.8 per cent
  3. TAS: 77.7 per cent
  4. VIC: 74.5 per cent
  5. SA: 71.8 per cent
  6. NSW: 71 per cent
  7. QLD: 70.5 per cent

A handy family: Queenslanders are most likely to have someone in the house pursuing a vocational education and training pathway – almost half (46 per cent) of respondents in Queensland said a member of their family had been employed in a trade. The full breakdown is:

  1. QLD: 45.5 per cent
  2. WA: 39.7 per cent
  3. ACT: 37.3 per cent
  4. VIC: 37 per cent
  5. NSW: 36.1 per cent
  6. TAS: 34.1 per cent
  7. SA: 32.5 per cent

VET (Vocationally Educated Tasmania): Tasmanians are significantly more likely to consider a career in a trade-based industry, at 42 per cent. This is a far cry from respondents in the ACT, of which only a quarter have considered a trade.

  1. TAS: 42.4 per cent
  2. QLD: 38.5 per cent
  3. SA: 31.2 per cent
  4. VIC: 30.8 per cent
  5. NSW: 29.8 per cent
  6. WA: 26.2 per cent
  7. ACT: 25.4 per cent

A positive career: The value of vocational education and training is understood most comprehensively in Tasmania, with 80 per cent saying a trade-based career is an aspirational employment prospect. The full breakdown is:

  1. TAS: 80 per cent
  2. WA: 79.9 per cent
  3. QLD: 78 per cent
  4. NSW: 76.1 per cent
  5. ACT: 71.2 per cent
  6. VIC: 71.2 per cent
  7. SA: 71.9 per cent

Key regional/metropolitan figures:

NSW:

  • Keeping regional NSW running: People in regional NSW are significantly more likely to know someone pursuing a vocation. While 44 per cent of people in regional NSW know someone employed in a trade-based industry, this falls to 33 per cent when compared with their metropolitan counterparts.

VIC:

  • Melbourne’s in the know: Melburnian’s are more likely than regional Victorians to hold basic VET knowledge – 77 per cent of Melbourne residents said they understand the term “vocational education and training” compared to just two thirds of regional Victorians

 WA:

  • Regional Western Australians : Just one quarter of respondents in Perth said they would consider a career in a trade-based industry, significantly lower than their regional counterparts, who clocked up 35 per cent

QLD:

  • Regional Queenslanders know VET: Two thirds of Brisbanians understand what is meant by vocational education and training, but regional Queenslanders have a much better understanding – 78 per cent claim to know what is meant by vocational education and training

SA:

  • Skills for the area: The popularity of key vocational careers varied between Adelaide and regional South Australia, with 42 per cent of Adelaide residents considering a career as a graphic designer (compared to 33 per cent in regional areas). Just 13 per cent of Adelaide residents considered a career as a house painter, compared to 19 per cent of regional areas

 TAS:

  • Open to ideas: Regional Tasmanians were more likely to consider a range of trade-based careers, with one in five considering a career as a bricklayer (compared to five per cent in metro areas) and 22 per cent considering becoming a house painter (compared to nine per cent in metro areas)

 

What do you think of these statistics? Join the conversation online and have your say.

This WorldSkills research was conducted online by PureProfile in February 2014 with a representative sample of 1,250 Australians aged 18+ nationwide.