Trading study for jobs Down Under

21st March 2014 at 00:00
Australian government calls for new stress on apprenticeships

Australian teenagers should be encouraged to learn a trade at school rather than automatically directed towards university study, a senior government minister has announced.

In a radical change of policy, assistant education minister Sussan Ley has called for a massive expansion of school-based apprenticeships, in order to prepare young people for careers such as "building trades, cooking or animal husbandry".

This marks a significant change of direction from the policies of the previous Labor government, which lost in last year's election to the Coalition of centre-right parties led by Liberal leader Tony Abbott.

Labor focused on increasing the number of learners progressing to university. As a result, in 2012 just 9 per cent of students aged between 14 and 18 were engaged in apprenticeships and traineeships. Even among school leavers, only 19 per cent went on to take a vocational qualification, half the proportion who went on to higher education.

Although in Australia students on apprenticeships are based in schools, many of them spend part of the week with a local employer. Ms Ley has insisted that the qualifications should be "equivalent to academic courses in rigour" and should prepare students for "real jobs in the real economy".

"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," she added.

The announcement was welcomed by Martin Riordan, chief executive of TAFE (technical and further education) Directors Australia. "The increased school student demand [for vocational education and training in schools] brings a need for redoubling efforts for quality, so industry capacity to support the process is essential," he said.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today