Do you consider vocational education a unviable alternative to university or college? You are not alone. However, you need to think again. I would like to invite you to put aside your pre-conceived
beliefs about vocational education and training (VET) and let me explain how misconceptions about VET are hurting the next generation’s chances of a meaningful future at work.
We have all heard the old adage ‘perception is reality’, but when it comes to VET, nothing is further from the truth. Here’s my premise: Skills-based education gives young people the chance to get experience and gain confidence early. It can catapult them into steady jobs, a great pay packet and, more than likely, a future-proof career.
Have you ever thought or believed any of these common statements? Well, allow me to bust these myths.
Myth 1. Apprenticeships are old fashioned – they aren’t funky
Actually, they are. And they’re really coming into their own in major economies.
For example, in the US, after waning and being restricted to a narrow range of fields over the past few decades, apprenticeship programs are coming back in a big way. There are more than 505,000 people in the US currently enrolled as apprentices – the highest rate in eight years, and US apprenticeship programs are increasingly offering the entry key to careers in a vast array of growing fields such as IT, health care, hospitality and advanced manufacturing, to name a few.
Despite that, 8 of 10 people surveyed by the US National Association of Manufacturers said they would not encourage their own children to enter the manufacturing field.
Those same people said they view manufacturing as critical to the prosperity and security of the US (90% of those surveyed actually ranked manufacturing top of the list of important industries!).
The same ‘it’s essential work, but not for my kids’ dynamic exists in Australia. Various research shows parents overwhelming respect the importance of manufacturing as a national priority, but not when it comes to wanting their children to pursue a career in that sector. Go figure.
Meanwhile, among northern and central European countries, between 40 and 70 per cent of high-school students opt for vocational education. After completing three years of combined on-the-job and classroom learning, students graduate with a qualification that carries real weight in the labour market, and a pathway to even higher levels of education and earnings.