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Aussie tradies get choice, careers and cash

25-Mar-2015

There is something wrong when people start to turn up their noses at the jobs that built this country — plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, tilers, even chefs.

One of the reasons, I suspect, is because the whole area of vocational education and training is considered by some to be inferior to university education. The reality is that many of those who start out on a vocational pathway will go on to earn significantly more than their university-educated counterparts.

They often work in positions that are at the cutting edge of technology and apply their skills in practical, innovative, hands-on ways. Many who start out in a vocational career will articulate from TAFE into a university degree as part of a natural career progression. Others will make the shift the other way.

Things have improved but there is often a subtle undercurrent that leads students to regard university as the best and only route for advancement. The annual ritual with TER (tertiary entrance ranking) shows just how fixated many people become on the goal of university, at the expense of so many fulfilling alternatives.

YESTERDAY’S STORY: SYDNEY’S YOUTH TOO COOL FOR TOOLS

It’s time we broke down the barriers and started to look at lifting the status of vocational education and training. It needs to start at the top. It is always fascinating to see the way our political leaders flock to be photographed with apprentices and tradies.

We need to carry this enthusiasm into the day-to-day culture of homes, classrooms and businesses to ensure that vocational jobs are always on the table as valued career choices for school leavers.

Unfortunately, vocational education and training has been the poor cousin to schools and universities when it comes to state and federal funding over many years. Nevertheless, we do have an impressive, high-performing and successful vocational education and training sector.

We need to do more to celebrate the achievements of those who enter the trades and encourage our young people to open their eyes to the vast range of choices available to them as tradies.

Jim Barron is Chief Executive of Group Training Australia

Article appeared in The Daily Telegraph, 25 March 2015