How Far We've Come with NGS Super - Learning and earning with TAFE

Part 2: Learning and earning with TAFE

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Set the scene…
We're taking a trip back to the middle of last century… After WWII, Australia was primed for growth. We had investors willing to take a punt on our development, favourable terms of trade, and efficiencies we’d worked out during the war effort. And we had workers - Aussies who served in the war were coming home and significant numbers of people left Europe for a fresh start in Oz.

So things were happening?
Yep, the country was building - literally lots of construction work was happening from homes in the suburbs to massive infrastructure projects like the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

Which takes people...
Exactly, and we needed people with technical skills to pitch in. The Australian Government came up with the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme to skill up those troops coming back so they could get work in practical jobs.

Did it work?
It did - by the middle of 1951, over 300,000 Aussies had taken part in the scheme. It did what it had to do and wrapped up. But it laid the groundwork for what we now call TAFE.

Remind me what TAFE is…
Happy to. It stands for Technical and Further Education.

So that’s how it came into being? 
It took a bit - technical colleges sprung up, and then in the 1970s, the government set up the Technical and Further Education Commission. That's when TAFE got national recognition and the Australian Government started pitching in funding in the '70s.

Which is the system we know today?
Mostly. Nowadays, TAFEs are operated and mainly funded by state and territory governments, but the federal government still chips in quite a bit.

Where are we today?

These days, the focus of TAFE is broad. Where there’s a job that requires a registered skill, there is a TAFE course. Yes, there’s training for electricians and mechanics, but there are also courses across hair and beauty, food prep, business and a whole lot more. 

Why that matters: Variety is the spice of life, but in recent years, there’s been a real push to make sure the courses on offer match up with what employers need.

Which are: Increasing our carer workforce is a priority - that’s aged carers, child carers, disability carers. And of course, more tradies… And looking into the future, the big 2 are in tech and sustainability.

The numbers

• $124 - the average hourly rate for a tradie in Melbourne. It ranks them 7th in the world, and based on an average of 38.5 hours per week, it means an annual income of over $243,000. Not too shabby…

• $2,000 - the average amount more TAFE graduates earn on their starting salaries compared to university graduates. And not to mention the cheaper fees TAFE students pay for their courses.

• 332 - The number of occupations with Aussie workers in short supply in 2023. The figures mean 36% of jobs experienced worker shortages over the past year, up from 31% in 2022 and 19% in 2021.

Where to from here?

Each year, the Australian Government publishes the Skills Priority List - it’s a stocktake of all the jobs where we're short on skilled workers. Australia's ageing population means fewer working-age Aussies per capita on the horizon, so there's a big push to ensure our workforce can meet the skills demand down the road.

• Jim Chalmers touched on this when he released the Australia Employment White Paper in September. A big part of it? You guessed it - technical education. The mission? To double the number of people finishing higher apprenticeships in the tech, sustainability and carer sectors over the next 5 years.

• There’s another piece to this puzzle - the lingering perception that TAFE isn't as prestigious as uni. The government is on a mission to change that with its five-year National Skills Agreement. It's $30 billion in combined state, territory and federal funding over the next 5 years, including federal support for an additional 300,000 fee-free TAFE and VET training spots. This kicks off in January next year.

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