Gaining the skills that pay the bills

By Greg Whitby, 28 August 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

This week is National Skills Week, a time to focus on the importance of vocational education and training. It is also the perfect time to think differently about the role that schools can play in helping to create a workforce fit for our times.

This is the age of innovation and disruption. The skills required today are different to what they were in 1970s. Today, the skills to pay the bills include communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity.

Don’t get me wrong – we need vocational skills as much as we ever did – but we also need our electricians and mechanics to have all the skills listed above and many more.

Governments have been trying to fix the issue of skills shortages for a long time but the problem remains. Some people pine for a return to the ‘good old days’ of 15-year-old full-time apprentices.

That is not the solution. The experiences of many young tradies of my generation is instructive. Sadly, there are horror stories of workplace hazing, as well as stories of being pigeonholed by leaving school too soon.

We need a blended model of school and work that allows students to gain the training, experience and mentoring they need while they are still at school – and I don’t just mean when they are Year 11 and 12. Next year, we will open a school in western Sydney where students will be able to create their own learning pathway based on what they are passionate about, and get credentials for what they achieve. For them, the world of school and work will come together.

By building partnerships with business and industry, young people can acquire the skills they need to succeed while remaining in a supportive and nurturing environment. Win/win.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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