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Edition 304 – Education Re-think

When I started High School in 1980, around 75% of students bailed out at the end of Year 10. Most took up an apprenticeship or realised, as my good friend Danielle Robertson of DR Care Solutions recently referenced it, they were not Book Smart and were looking to become Life Smart.

In the period 1980 to 1985, a funny thing happened. The deep recession of 1982/1983 and the victory of the Hawke Government in 1983 completely changed the focus. By the time I finished High School in 1985, 75% of students stayed on until Year 12. We were encouraged to obtain a University Education and broaden our horizons. I myself relished that challenge, took it on and was the first person in my extended family to have commenced and finish a University degree.

Fast forward 35 years and guess what?  We’ve got a lot of degree qualified individuals either:

  1. Not practising in their learned discipline; or,
  2. Making coffee!

The flow on effect is that there’s now a serious shortage of labour for the trades based industries in particular and in other disciplines where a university education is not only not required but would be a serious over-qualification.

Over the next few years, I can see Electricians, Plumbers and Carpenters:

  1. Earning $120K pa plus.
  2. Carrying little to no student debt (as the cost of apprenticeship sits with the employer).
  3. With huge opportunities, inside their own industries.

Similarly, I see Lawyers &  Accountants:

  1. Earning $80K – and potentially capping out at that number.
  2. Carrying significant student debt that will take up to 10 years to pay back.
  3. With limited opportunities, fighting for positions with others in a similar position.

If Sydney and Melbourne are going to be able to grow to sustaining 8 million people each by 2060, we need an army of well trained, highly skilled tradespeople that will build the cities of the future. I believe there needs to be a tripartite approach from the Government, Business and the Education Sector towards increasing the labour pool of tradespeople in Australia. Whilst certainly no manifesto, here’s some of my suggestions:

  1. Secondary Education to focus on the number of their Year 12 students that make it into employment or education – not merely University courses (Check out the prospectus of any private school – it will always focus on how many of their students ended up at University, but not in employment!).
  2. State Governments to increase funding into the TAFE (Technical & Further Education) system.
  3. The Federal Government to provide ongoing funding to employers and apprentices in the forms of cash bonuses and/or tax incentives to drive more people into apprenticeships.
  4. Businesses to actively tout for potential candidates much earlier than the day they need them. I’m amazed at how few businesses actually partner with local high schools with a view to developing a trades based pathway.
  5. Businesses should also partner closely with local sporting organisations – not just in terms of sponsorship, but active involvement in the sport itself. I’ve seen excellent examples of this happening in the family business space that provided an employment pathway over a long period of time.

This Week’s Tip

“I’ve long argued that I’m Australia’s worst handyman and that the
best tool in my toolbox is my credit card. Surely I’m not the only one like this
– and yet we all have a part to play in changing this for the future”.