VET changes will align students' dreams with employers' needs

Employers and educators in Murray Bridge hope to make the best of coming changes to South Australia's vocational education system.

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Changes to the VET system will soon channel the Murraylands’ high school students towards careers in the industries which need them most.

About 70 local business leaders gathered at Murray Bridge Club last Thursday night to hear about coming changes to South Australia’s vocational education system.

From 2022, school VET courses will have to line up with 26 “pathways to employment”: the industries most likely to create jobs over the next decade.

Students will also be encouraged to think about their career paths as early as year 7, well before their first work experience placements; and to finish their qualifications at school.

Regional education director Stan Hagias said the changes were aimed at improving students’ employment potential, as well as high school completion rates.

Murray Bridge High School principal Ruth Mussger suggested people needed to change the way they thought about vocational education.

After all, VET graduates were more likely to have a job, earn higher incomes and be happier as they entered their 20s.

“We’ve gone from these pathways where you were either going to employment or you were going to university, and there was no mixing between the two,” Ms Mussger said.

“But last year, 60 per cent of our SACE completers used VET somewhere along the way, and not just as a filler – as a pathway.”

VET studies gave students the skills employers wanted, she said: critical and creative thinking, initiative, problem-solving, social and personal skills.

Karen Milesi, Ruth Mussger, Mary-Lou Corcoran, Michael Pater and Kylie Eggers chat about coming changes to vocational education in the Murraylands. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Too many young jobseekers make same three mistakes, publican says

The hospitality industry was a key focus on the night.

New hotels have created hundreds of jobs in the Murraylands in recent years, some of which have been filled by school leavers.

Bridgeport Hotel general manager Mary-Lou Corcoran said she was happy to give juniors an opportunity to work; she hoped students would take advantage of the new VET structure.

“We never got this when we were at school,” she said of her own generation.

“We never got these opportunities, we didn’t have this mentoring, we didn’t get this support.”

But publican Karen Milesi said too many of the young people who came to her businesses – the Murray Bridge Hotel and Adelaide Road Motor Lodge – were making the same mistakes.

Some wore daggy clothing when they dropped off their resumes; some failed to appreciate that workmates would be left in the lurch if they called in sick only an hour before a shift.

Most surprising to her, though, was the fact that not one school leaver had come to ask for a job at either of her businesses at the end of last year.

She hoped the new VET courses would help students develop a professional attitude.

Changes are intended to give students better job prospects

The vocational education changes were developed in consultation with eight government-appointed industry skills councils, representing employers including Thomas Foods International, Viterra and On the Run.

State Education Minister John Gardner said in February that the new VET system would give students certainty that the skills they were learning would lead to careers.

“It is vital that our education system is preparing students to take advantage of local job opportunities,” he said.

“We are ensuring that VET in schools is high quality, accessible and links to skilled careers where there are job opportunities right here in South Australia.

“These pathways not only prepare students for the world of work, they provide a pipeline of skilled workers for South Australian employers.”

Most of the 16 VET courses currently offered at Murray Bridge High School and the Lower Murray Trade Training Centre will still be available under the new system.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the three courses currently available which will no longer be listed as pathways to employment: music, sport and recreation, and fitness.