LEADING EXAMPLE: Training and Skills Development Minister Shannon Fentiman and Ipswich West MP Jim Madden with Ipswich State High School students Liam Korhecz, Mikaela Roderick and Taylia Wedd in the school's trade training centre.
LEADING EXAMPLE: Training and Skills Development Minister Shannon Fentiman and Ipswich West MP Jim Madden with Ipswich State High School students Liam Korhecz, Mikaela Roderick and Taylia Wedd in the school's trade training centre. Cordell Richardson

New approach aimed at crushing generational unemployment

WHEN principal Simon Riley arrived at Ipswich State High School 15 years ago, he realised it was failing to prepare young people for life after school if university wasn't an option.

He found many of his students didn't believe they "were entitled to employment” and some were stuck in a cruel cycle of generational unemployment.

"We were assuming they were all going to be academic and go to university... that doesn't work,” he said.

"It works for some people but not for everybody. We did a bit of a turnaround in the curriculum.”

More focus was placed on equipping children with practical skills with an eye on life after study, giving them a leg up to start an apprenticeship or gain employment soon after they walked out of the gates for the final time.

The school's hugely successful hair and beauty program recently celebrated its 10th birthday and its $5 million state-of-the-art trade training centre took things to new heights after it was opened five years ago.

The pathways provided to students has grown with every passing year to include growth industries like fitness, with the school offering about 30 certificate courses to its Year 10, 11 and 12 students, as well as to children from other schools.

Ipswich State High is the state's top provider of vocational education and training; it had the largest number of students enrolled in a VETiS course last year and delivers about 1500 certificates a year.

Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman visited the school this week to tour its facilities and spruik the State Government's push to get more young people into apprenticeships and trainees.

"We have 8 per cent graduate unemployment from the school compared to about a 24 per cent citywide (youth) unemployment for people aged between 18 and 24,” Mr Riley said.

"We're punching way above our weight. We're doing it because it works.

"I will have students walk across the stage this year who are the first in the family to get to Year 12. Some of those will walk off stage and into a job and be the first in two or three generations to have employment. More schools are starting to (put a focus on VET).”

Where the jobs will be in the next five years

The State Government is making steps to address a skills shortage in Queensland and is enticing young people to get on board to plug gaps for high demand roles.

Although she didn't make any new announcements during her visit, Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman was in the city on Wednesday to highlight the work done by Ipswich State High School as Queensland's top provider of vocational education and training.

Breme State High School had the second highest number of enrolments in a VETiS course in the state last year.

In August, the Government announced free apprenticeships for people under 21 to go with its free TAFE for Year 12 graduates initiative to remove financial barriers for small businesses and individuals.

"We have a problem where we're not valuing skills and vocational education and training as we do university,” Ms Fentiman said.

"Nine of the 10 jobs that will grow the most (over the next five years) will require a vocational education and training pathway.

"So far, more than 12,000 young Queenslanders are taking advantage of free training under these two initiatives.”

Ms Fentiman said health, hospitality, tourism, IT, education and professional services would be the industries on the rise in the next five years, while traditional trades like construction and engineering would also experience "huge growth”.

She stressed you only needed to be a resident and not a citizen to access free TAFE.

Principal Simon Riley said he he was baffled why more school weren't putting as much attention on VET as they were on getting student into university courses.

"I just don't get it,” she said.

"When I've got 200 kids in a cohort at Year 12 and I've only got 45 take the QCS test to go to the uni, that's less than a quarter. Why am I then theoretically spending all of my energies on less than 25 per cent of my cohort.

"It doesn't make sense.”