August 28, 2014

Minister Ley Acknowledges Positive Influence Career Advisers Can Have on Young People

The following is a transcript of a speech by Minister Ley on opening the Magical Mystery Tour of Skills Theatre Showcase – National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), Sydney – Monday 25 August.


Good morning. I am delighted to join you to open the Magical Mystery Tour of Skills.

It’s a creative and inspiring concept, and my congratulations go to the many people involved, including the young people who will deliver the performances. This event is the result of a collaboration involving a large number of people and organisations contributing their valuable time to make this day possible.

Congratulations to Brian and the team at SkillsOne who promote the extensive skilled career opportunities and pathways available to students.

Thank you also to News Corp for generously supporting this event.

And of course, NIDA is exactly the right place for some theatre, being the spiritual home of some of our most famous actors and actresses. NIDA also trains and employs many people with highly technical skills that support the entertainment industries. There is no doubt that some very ambitious and strategic career decisions have been made in this very building at one point or another.

Welcome to everyone here, including the hundreds of career advisers.  I am very aware of the positive influence you have in helping young people navigate the sometimes confusing pathway toward a rewarding career.

Your role helps build a productive and enthusiastic workforce of people who are in the right job because they got the right advice at just the right time.

National Skills Week

This Theatre Showcase marks the beginning of the fourth National Skills Week, which is a nationwide celebration of vocational qualifications and their value to individuals, employers, communities and the nation.

And vocational qualifications are certainly worth celebrating.

Australia would be a very different place without the highly skilled workers who obtained their qualifications through vocational education, and who have contributed to our infrastructure, the technology we use every day, and even our health, our quality of life, and our overall wellbeing.

We need to recognise these benefits on a national scale, and end the idea that young people who are not studying at university are part of the ‘B Team’.

VET should be as highly prized and as highly regarded as any other further education qualification.

We all have a role to play in turning this around. When we consider the scale and prominence of media coverage devoted to ATAR scores and university entrance, it is evident that school leavers with VET pathways do not get the same level of attention.  So I congratulate News Corp for sponsoring today’s celebration of vocational pathways and encourage you to continue to profile vocational success as being equally valued. Today I issue a challenge to the media representatives here and elsewhere to profile the stories of successful VET students in the same way as success at university is often recognised.

And to the career advisers in the audience, you also have a vital role in raising the profile and understanding of vocational education. I urge you to use this Showcase – and this week as National Skills Week – to maximise your knowledge of the latest thinking and opportunities for your students.

Finding the right career pathway

Recently, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of young people staying in school until they are 17.

This is great news for the students involved and has no doubt given you some extra work to do, as career advisers.

Yet only 40 per cent of school leavers in 2012 went on to study at university in 2013.

This means there is a significant number of students staying at school who are not pursuing a university pathway.

The majority of students, the 60 per cent of students who don’t go to university, must be supported with excellent career advice so they can make informed choices about their future and a smooth transition from school to work, or from school to further education and training.

And students need to be mindful that a uni degree doesn’t provide a guarantee of a job. There are fluctuations in the graduate employment market. The recent 2013 Graduate Destinations Survey showed that the proportion of bachelor degree graduates who did not find work within four months of completing their course had risen to around 30 per cent, the highest level since 1993.

We need to ensure that our school leavers are pursuing a pathway that is likely to result in a job.  And yet the reality is that not every school leaver wants to go to university, and not every job requires a university degree.

I was interested to note that the Research Manager for Graduate Careers Australia who conducted the research (Bruce Guthrie) was quoted as saying that students may – in the future – ‘opt for potentially cheaper and more job-focused vocational qualifications’.

We need to ensure that the VET in schools sector is well equipped for this challenge and is attracting an increasing number of students who are keen to pursue their vocation of choice.

When we look at the stats, however, it is evident that there’s a bit of work to do.  For example, here in New South Wales only 13.2 per cent of all 15-19 year olds were participating in VET in Schools during 2012 – well below the average of 16.6 per cent nationally.

The good news is that in New South Wales, there were nearly 2350 school-based apprentices in 2012, accounting for 10 per cent of school-based apprentices across Australia.

School-based apprenticeships provide the most direct pathway from school to employment and further training and I have repeatedly emphasised that we urgently need to lift the number of school based apprentices.

Only 1.5 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds are undertaking school-based apprenticeships nationally.

I recognise that the current state of play presents some challenges for VETiS students – and I hear the frustrations. The most common is that employers often want block release (ie weeks rather than single days) for students undertaking structured workplace learning or school-based apprenticeships, but schools cannot accommodate their timetabling. Addressing these issues is not easy – but we won’t be deterred by simply knowing how difficult it is. We will instead focus on the opportunities because hands-on career development is vital – I hear it everywhere I go.

Yet in order to be successful and truly hands on – it needs the support of business and industry.

VETiS Roundtables and updating the VETiS framework

As one step to get industry and business more involved in supporting school students at the national level, I have convened a series of roundtable meetings around Australia with representatives from the three pillars of VETiS – schools, industry and training.

One of the key themes to come from these discussions has been the importance of quality career advice, especially as most students indicate that they don’t know what they want to do when they leave school.

I am pleased that, in April, Education Ministers around Australia agreed to my proposal to update the outdated vocational education in schools framework which dates back to 2001. A Working Group has been established to progress these updates.

Along with my State and Territory colleagues I received a progress report from the Working Group on 15 August.  Their work is progressing well and we look forward to receiving the updated VETiS Framework for endorsement in December.  That will be the final stage of a year’s worth of roundtables and consultation.

Today I want to assure you that your important roles as careers advisors are recognised in the terms of reference for the working group.  The updated Framework needs to heighten your role in an ambitious, national and contemporary VETiS system.


With your support, we can turn VETiS into a first class pathway for students – a vocational path that is just as valued and celebrated – by employers, schools, teachers, students and parents – as the academic pathway.

You play a vital role in getting young people engaged with their passion and helping translate that passion into a career by connecting them to meaningful and practical career exploration experiences.

I’m delighted to declare the Showcase open – I wish you all every success for your Magical Mystery Tour of Skills and I look forward to celebrating the success of VET in Schools with you.