Getting a trade is still a great start

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There’s always the ongoing debate for school leavers whether to become a tradesman or go to university, but current employment trends are proving that getting a trade can often present more job opportunities than having a university degree.

Tradie or Uni?

Stuart Irving, CEO of Computershare and Jamie Odell, CEO of Aristocrat Leisure, are both top executives in leading companies; neither of them holds a university degree and neither of them regrets it.

Odell admits he wanted to go to university and was accepted but his parents couldn’t afford it. “I have enormous respect for people who go into the trades”, he says.

Catherine Livington, President of the Business Council of Australia says, “... there are too many people going to university and not enough going through the vocational education training system and many students would be better off having some work experience.”

Last year saw the equivalent of 170 000 more full-time university students than in 2009, when the previous Labor government began lifting restrictions on placements, whilst at the same time, the number of school leavers going into the trades hasn’t changed much.

University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker recently cautioned that Australia is facing the risk of becoming a country full of university graduates who can’t find a tradie when they need one! When was the last time you were able to get a plumber, electrician or carpenter to come out the same day?

A recent survey by the Australian Financial Review showed that there are less than a dozen ASX chief executives without degrees, making Irving and Odell in the minority among their ASX100 peers. Out of those ASX heads who do have a degree, 21% studied science and 19% studied commerce, followed by engineering and economics. Odell agrees that times have changed since he left school and the standards have been raised on the requirement of qualifications needed for entry level jobs. However, no matter how many degrees an applicant holds, they still have to prove themselves on the job.

The Assistant Education Minister in the Abbott government, Sussan Ley has stated that she wants to raise the awareness of tradesman training to help balance Labor’s previous emphasis on university education. Her aim is to give senior secondary students increased access to pre-apprenticeships and school-based apprenticeships in the traditional trades.

Richard Goyder, Managing Director of Wesfarmers was asked for his views on university enrolment trends in recent years. He responded that there is a disturbing mismatch between what students are choosing to study and the subsequent jobs available. He went on to say, “In WA this year, there will be 900 graduate lawyers come out of university and there will be 200 jobs available.”

Anyone know the number for a good plumber?