Why the Tertiary Pathways Project?
The future of work is rapidly changing. As lower skill jobs become increasingly automated, demand for higher level skills will grow. Employer demand is expected to increase at certificate IV level and above, with the highest growth at bachelor level and above. Despite this, participation in higher level VET is falling, and bachelor level commencements are beginning to plateau.
In most fields of study, pathways between qualifications in VET and higher education are underdeveloped. In NSW, VET as a basis of admission to undergraduate studies accounts for 13% of total commencements.1 However this varies significantly across occupational sectors and depends on how hard it is to navigate between VET and higher education in particular fields.
For example, few civil contractors become civil engineers, as there are few pathways that support this transition. Around 1% of commencing civil engineering students are admitted on the basis of a VET qualification. By contrast, many early childhood educators become early childhood teachers and this pathway is well supported by higher education institutions and employers, with 66% of commencing students admitted via a VET qualification.
Qualifications at Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) levels 5 and 6 - diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees - are the key transition point between VET and higher education, but generally have looser links to occupations than VET overall and this can affect graduate outcomes. By comparison, trade apprenticeships have some of the best graduate outcomes. 81% of trade apprentices are employed full time after completion compared to 44% for other VET graduates.2 Trade apprenticeships also have higher completion rates than other VET qualifications (59% compared to 40%).3
1 Higher Education Data Mart, 2015
2 NCVER VOCSTATS, Total VET Graduate Outcomes 2016
3 NCVER VET Program Completion Rates 2011-15 and Completion and Attrition Rates for Apprentices and Trainees 2016. Figures used are for 2012 student cohorts.