Research finds tradies get paid more than uni grads

May 22, 2017
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For most of us, there’s a pretty clear path when we finish year 12. While some of us might venture off on a gap year, there’s plenty of us who see uni as the obvious thing that comes next. We do it because everyone else around us is doing it, and we think it’s the step that will help us get to the career we want.

In fact, recent data shows that four in five parents prefer their children to go to university than vocational training. But this report by the Skilling Australia Foundation and McCrindle Research has found that there are myths that continue to be perpetuated about uni education being a better option for career prospects than VET courses. Of all the myths the research debunked, it’s particularly interesting to note that in the first year of employment, those who pursue trades from VET education are more likely to land a job and be paid more.

The grad opportunities for tradies vs uni students 

In conducting their research, SAF found a common misconception held among Australians was the belief that VET jobs don't pay well. Despite the perception of low wages, the findings actually reveal that tradies may be on a better starting wage. While the average full-time salary for a VET graduate is $56,000, for a recent university graduate the median starting income is $54,000.

No two people are the same, nor will they travel the same path. We all have different learning styles, interests and talents.

The other misconception had to do with  While an average of 78 per cent of VET grads land a job straight after finishing the course, by comparison 68 per cent of graduates with a bachelor degree land a job right away. This differs depending on the trade, with fields like Customer Engagement, Engineering, Airconditioning and Refrigeration, Correctional Practice and Financial Services yielding as high as over 90 per cent of grads finding work right away.

The perception that the VET sector is the “poor cousin” of unis

When it comes to perceptions about TAFE and trades, electrician Matthew Ferris has found there is an automatic prejudice when he tells people his profession.

“People can be a bit judgemental and assume I flunked high school, but I had a better idea of what I wanted to do and was in the workforce faster than all of my uni mates,” he says.

According to official data, there are over a million students enrolled at universities in 2017, with 37 per cent of Australians aged 25-34 holding a bachelor degree or higher. The numbers are high, which has also lead to a high dropout rate. The data released earlier this year also found one in three students are dropping out of university.

The perception that needs to be challenged is that uni is the superior option, as it’s clearly not the right fit for everyone. CEO of Skilling Australia Foundation Nicholas Wyman called for a change to this attitude towards VET careers.

“No two people are the same, nor will they travel the same path. We all have different learning styles, interests and talents. With skills-based career development, young Australians can pursue an individual passion while gaining the knowledge and experience to build a rewarding career.”