Attending a Vocational Education and Training (VET) graduation can be an uplifting experience. There’s the 45-year-old manufacturing worker who left school at 14 getting his first-ever qualification and a new job in construction, the Indigenous single parent who started a business based on what she learnt with her Certificate III in Hospitality, the female refrigeration apprentice who won a medal representing Australia at WorldSkills, and the Sudanese refugee who is now a university law student following his English Language and Tertiary Preparation Course.
These are not just inspiring stories about individuals. They show how the vocational system can increase workforce participation through developing skills in shortage areas, especially for disadvantaged groups.
Skills Australia once calculated if we raised workforce participation from 65% to the 69% they achieve in New Zealand, it would benefit the economy through increased tax and reduced social security income to improve government operating balances by as much as A$24 billion a year.
The sector needs a new national set of priorities and operating principles fit for the future. To achieve this, a national review is necessary.