It’s time to stop thinking uni is for everyone

TEENS keen to be on the tools will be told by the Federal Government there's nothing wrong with leaving school after Year 10 to take on an apprenticeship - or start a school-based traineeship - in a bid to end job snobbery and lift the prestige of blue collar jobs.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has revealed she is determined to turn back the clock and end a decades-long push by governments to get more students into university at the expense of vocational education and trades, amid a gaping shortage of workers in traditional blue collar occupations.

Signalling university isn't for every student, Senator Cash said Aussies needed to be proud to become a tradie, citing research which shows 31 of the 50 top-earning jobs require vocational education rather than a university degree.

It comes as The Sunday Mail can reveal new data showing there are significant shortages for technicians and tradies - more than professional occupations. Also, 31 of the 50 top-earning jobs require a vocational education and training pathway - not a university degree.

Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Mail, a passionate Senator Cash said she wanted Aussies to be proud to be a tradie and part of the cultural shift was to repair the "damage" done after Labor opened the floodgates to VET.

"Any young Australian convinced of doing an apprenticeship should consider commencing a school based one or start once they havefinished Year 10,'' Senator Cash said.

"Not only will they be earning while they are learning, they will potentially be able to afford their first car while others who choose the university pathway will still be studying.

"Young people, and their parents, need to see that these blue collar jobs come with great wages. A university degree is not superior to a VET pathway.

"The federal government is encouraging high school students and their parents to consider the options available to them. University isn't the only option and we want to make sure young person explore opportunities and realise their potential."

Apprentice Bradley Weyman. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Apprentice Bradley Weyman. Picture: Jamie Hanson

The Government is supercharging its investment in VET and apprentices as it prepares for the workforce needed to help build its $100 billion national-building infrastructure over the decade.

At the end of 2016, the Coalition reformed the vocational education sector. Labor in 2009 had extended HELP student loans to the vocational training sector, in which shonky operators flooded the system.

Unscrupulous training providers and their agents targeted vulnerable or unsuitable people who were lured into signing courses.

Likened by critics to the disastrous Rudd government insulation debacle, a review of the sector found some students had racked up $90,000 in debt without finishing a diploma, jumped from course to course and were ­receiving an educational lay-by for diplomas in energy healing, therapeutic arts in counselling and veterinary Chinese herbal medicine.

Senator Cash said part of the challenge was to provide confidence again for those who wanted to learn under vocational education.

"We are still feeling the results of Labor's legacy of cuts and reputational damage. That is why we are leading, with the states and territories, in one of the biggest reforms to the VET sector in a generation.

"We need a better system and we need it now. We not only need policy reform but cultural change.

"Vocational training gives you the best of both worlds: higher wages and better employability.

"What the research shows is that there are jobs out there for those who want them. As Employment Minister my role is to get every Australian who is willing and able into a job."

While there are moderate shortages for veterinarians, pharmacists and electrical engineers, Australia is all but facing a mechanic, plumber, sparky and baker drought.

There are 13 professions listed in the 2018-19 skills shortage list compared to 25 technicians and trades.

The Government states the number of Australian apprentices increased by 2.2 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2018.

Over the next five years, the Australian economy will desperately need more workers, especially as the country moves to the full implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, of which some jobs will require VET qualifications.

Jobs in construction, childcare and business services will also be needed.

The Government will spend $1.5 billion in the Skilling Australians Fund over five years to help get thousands of youth in apprenticeships. At the start of the year, the Australian Apprentice Wage Subsidy was opened to eligible businesses that took on an apprentice.

About 1630 apprentices have been signed up.

And from July this year, the Support for Adult Australian Apprentices incentive was extended to employers who hire apprentices aged 21-24 years studying a certificate III or IV in areas of skills needs.