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Focus to shift to school trade training

The Australian  |     7 March 2014

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The Abbott government will encourage more students to undertake school-based apprenticeships and move away from the focus on higher education, in a dramatic change in approach from Labor.

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TradesAssistant Education Minister Sussan Ley said the number of people achieving formal trade qualifications was far too low and there was an overwhelming belief across schools, industry, trainers and governments that the national framework for vocational education and training in schools should be modernised.

Ms Ley has told TAFE Directors Australia that new careers advice would be at the centre of the shift in approach. Careers advisers would be tasked with encouraging more students to take on school-based apprenticeships. Currently, only 9% of VET students in schools are carrying out a school-based apprenticeship, with 91%  in other programs.

“I also want to be sure we have a system which makes it clear to our kids that they no longer have to choose between school and a trade – that they can graduate Year 12 with the necessary skills to successfully continue their training with an employer,” Ms Ley said.

The Coalition’s increased emphasis on school-based apprenticeships comes after Education Minister Christopher Pyne last year revealed a shift in focus from higher education, arguing Labor’s drive for 40% of 25 to 34-year-olds to have a university degree represented an obsession with targets, when the focus should be on quality.

Pyne has said he will ignore the higher education targets that underpinned Labor’s reforms.

A report by former Liberal education minister David Kemp and economist Andrew Norton to the government on the demand-driven system of university entrance, which caused a spike in demand for university entrance, is due by the middle of this month.

University student numbers rose more than 350,000 between 2008 and last year.

According to the latest figures from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, the national population of 15-19-year-olds in 2012 was 1.45 million and the number of students in VETiS was 242,000. This was made up of: 22,500 students in school-based apprenticeships and traineeships (just 9 per cent of all VETiS) and 219,800 in other VETiS programs.

TAFE Directors Australia chief executive Martin Riordan welcomed closer linkages for industry with students and providers for VETiS programs.

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