Parents: thinking about university for your child? You might want to reconsider.

I’ve recently read a report by Skilling Australia Foundation which covered a topic of significant interest to me: myths that surround vocational education and training (VET) and data to support the value of VET study. Within this blog, I’ll distil the most pertinent facts, and why the report is key to our endeavours at the Industry Skills Advisory Council (ISACNT). 


The report, “Perceptions Are Not Reality”: myths, realities & the critical role of vocational education & training in Australia, tells us that out of a national survey of Australian adults, nearly 80% would prefer their children to go to university rather than take a vocational training pathway.

Yet the latest statistics on employment within Australia reveal that VET can actually be a more profitable and secure employability option for graduates than traditional, academic study.

Today, VET graduates salaries are on par with, if not higher than, university graduates. VET graduates earn an average of $56,000 full time per annum compared to university bachelor degree graduates who earn an average of $54,000 full time per annum.

According to Nicholas Wyman, CEO of Skilling Australia Foundation who commissioned the research, “compared with employment outcomes for university graduates, VET continues to produce superior results, and has proven itself to be a more flexible, accessible and adaptable platform for educating and skilling Australians than university education.”

Since VET has direct links into the cutting edge of industry, training directly relates to the skills most in demand. This is a significant drawcard for industry: VET graduates can immediately apply the skills they acquired through study in business.

VET is also often considered a more cost effective option compared to university study, as courses can be completed in one or two years and students can earn an income while ‘learning on the job’. 


VET graduates earn lower wages than university graduates. In fact, the reverse is often true. Skilling Australia Foundation provides the examples of Certificate IV in Hazardous Areas – Electrical, which pays $85,400, the highest average starting salary for a VET qualification. In comparison, the highest starting salary for a bachelor degree (dentistry) pays $80,000.

VET graduates struggle to find work. Nearly 30% of adults surveyed for the report believe that university graduates find work more easily. But Skilling Australia Foundation data tells us that VET graduates have higher employment outcomes, at 78%, compared to bachelor degree graduates at 69%. In fact, the number of university graduates that are in work post study has fallen significantly in recent years – from 86% in 2008 to 69% in 2017.

VET courses are out of touch with workforce needs. The Commonwealth Government Department of Employment states that VET courses are “more relevant than ever when it comes to preparing Australia to be more globally competitive” (see page 6 of the report). And the main reason why? VET courses are available for 9 out of the 10 occupations forecast to experience significant growth over the next 5 years.

Our thoughts

The Industry Skills Advisory Council fully supports Skilling Australia Foundation’s findings. As an independent organisation supporting workforce development in the Northern Territory, we truly recognise the value of VET in supporting NT industry growth now and in the future.

If you have seen any of our previous blogs, you would have read that jobs of the future will require new sets of skills, and we believe VET is the ideal platform to acquire them.

For more information on VET courses, funding or ensuring your workforce has the skills needed to keep your business or organisation competitive, contact one of our Industry Engagement Officers.