In May this year, the Andrews government announced plans for fee-free TAFE in priority areas as part of their budget reveal. The government pledged to pick up the tab for 30 TAFE courses and 18 pre-apprenticeship pathways from 1 January, 2019, opening up 30,000 free TAFE spots for prospective students. Victoria’s fee-free scheme is part of a wider reinvigoration of their damaged TAFE sector, hoping to draw students towards the valuable and often undervalued role of vocational education in the community.
The free courses on offer will lead to occupations in industries that are projected to experience strong growth and an increased demand for skilled workers in the future. Students will have the opportunity to study courses in everything from accounting, community services and horticulture to nursing, tourism and building and construction. Those interested in a pre-apprenticeship pathway can choose from the likes of automotive technology, furniture making, signage and baking.
University is often regarded as a rite of passage for school leavers, but it’s not the best study fit for everyone. Social stereotypes around TAFE paint it as a second-tier option, yet these attitudes disregard the invaluable practical skills and knowledge that students can learn through the vocational sector. As the dust settles on the ATAR release and attention turns toward life after high school, let’s take a look at why you should consider TAFE for your further studies.
TAFE Courses can provide a number of pathways
Whether you’ve already settled on your dream job or are still undecided, TAFE courses are a great way to test the waters when it comes to prospective careers. Vocational education lives by the motto of ‘doing is living’, so you’ll be taught relevant skills in a practical manner. If you have already decided on your career pathway, this hands-on approach will be valuable as you’ll graduate with the specific skills and knowledge to make you job-ready.
TAFE is also a viable pathway for those who are unsure of what they want to do after school. Instead of committing to a three-year university degree for the sake of it, you could explore potential career options through a six-month TAFE course. These short programs allow you to get a taste of certain fields without dedicating a huge chunk of your time, and you’ll emerge with a qualification and some work experience under your belt.
If you plan on attending university but didn’t get the ATAR you needed or expected, TAFE is a great bridging option. Look for courses that provide pathways into higher education – think ‘diploma to degree’ programs or courses that provide you with a Tertiary Admission Rank (which is equivalent to an ATAR). A TAFE qualification could also act as credit towards a relevant degree, potentially shaving time off your university studies.
You don’t always need an ATAR for acceptance
Admission requirements will vary by course, but plenty of TAFE institutes don’t actually require an ATAR from prospective students. If you didn’t get the mark you needed for your desired course, a TAFE diploma can equip you with the relevant skills and knowledge before you transfer into your university degree. TAFE institutes also suit people who don’t have an ATAR, as they provide students with the prerequisite knowledge to work towards their dream career or degree.
Employment prospects are better for TAFE graduates
Data from Skilling Australia Foundation’s 2017 Perceptions are not reality report found that not only do TAFE graduates earn more than their university counterparts, they are also more likely to find full-time employment after graduation. TAFE attendees pip university graduates by $2,000 when it comes to median full-time salary – higher education scholars earn an average of $54,000 in comparison to $56,000 for vocational students. There is also a divide in post-graduation employment prospects, with nearly eight in 10 TAFE graduates and more than nine out of 10 trade apprentices working full-time after completing their qualifications. In comparison, approximately seven out of 10 university students manage to find full-time work after graduation.
The Victorian government’s announcement of a free TAFE scheme for priority courses will provide thousands of students with the opportunity to study without paying for it – a scenario that HECS debt-riddled university students can only dream of.
Reflects market shift towards skill-based hiring
With the workforce increasingly requiring innovation and collaboration, skills-based learning (like that offered through TAFE) is becoming as important as ever. The technology boom has seen an influx in the automation of jobs, forcing workers to upskill and retrain. To reflect this change in the job market, employers are shifting away from academic qualifications and theoretical knowledge to place more importance on productive and transferrable skills. The hands-on nature of TAFE allows students to cultivate these skills through practical courses and apprenticeships.