VET gives kids solid pathways

By Greg Whitby, 9 August 2017

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

We hear often that Australia is facing a national skills shortage and that schools are not equipping students with the skills they need for work in the 21st century. The traditional pathway to gaining skills and employment has been university. However, a recent report found that half of students interviewed felt schools placed too much focus on university over other pathways to success like vocational education.

Technology has clearly impacted on the nature of work, which, in today’s world, demands a different skill set. Central to this is ensuring all young people are on a continuous pathway to learning. We know that not every child that comes to school is going to end up becoming a computer programmer nor is every child going to be working on a construction site. Every child comes to school with different interests and passions, and each of them deserves an opportunity to pursue them.

Every school needs to be flexible in terms of how it delivers learning. Vocational educational and training (VET), which has been offered in schools for decades, is often seen as the ‘soft option’ for students who don’t want to or can’t attend university. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many students incorporate VET into their choice of HSC subjects, often with great success. VET subjects can be included in a pattern of study for every student, including those who wish to receive an ATAR. It is no soft option. Students who select a VET subject have to balance the demands of academic study, training and work but in doing so, they receive a learning experience that is well-rounded, hands-on and highly relevant in terms of skills. It also gives them many more career options.

Schools need to move away from the notion that there is just one path for every student. Students will have a competitive edge in today’s world if they are given the opportunity to learn and develop skills through choosing a VET subject.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said recently that selecting a VET subject is more likely to lead to high tech and high paying jobs. As one principal told me recently, VET courses today are as good as any other subject currently on offer.

VET subjects are not just for those looking for something other than an academic pathway after school – VET can be for everyone.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

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