When it comes to education, the image is one thing but the reality is often something totally different.
Australia's vocational education and training (VET) sector continues to deliver excellent results and outcomes for its students, industry and the economy, but is still viewed by many as the poor second cousin compared to universities and often not given due consideration by school leavers as a fantastic pathway to a future career.
However, the importance of practical VET training and TAFEs has never been more pronounced than now. When it comes to areas of jobs growth and opportunity, TAFE qualifications are hitting the mark.
Tired old cliches about TAFEs are something of the past. With excellent job outcomes and training in the key areas of jobs growth, TAFEs are now having a resurgence.
South West TAFE CEO Mark Fidge says TAFE delivers in areas that will always be in demand. "People will always need houses built, cars fixed, health care, food grown and food cooked, and TAFE delivers training in those areas of strong job demand."
That means great employment success for graduates.
TAFE graduates are more likely than their university counterparts to find full-time employment within six months of completing their course. In education-related VET courses, 86.6 per cent of graduates find work within six months, agriculture 83.7 per cent and health 82.7 per cent.
TAFE training offers workplace-specific skills and knowledge in a wide array of occupations and highly skilled trades.
TAFE qualified workers play a prominent role in Australia's labour market, and that is particularly pronounced in south-west Victoria. Figures from 2019 show that 31 per cent of employed workers in Victoria and Australia had a VET qualification, but this increased to 38 per cent in the Great South Coast workforce.
Australia's largest industry sector is health care and social assistance where 32 per cent of employed workers have a VET qualification, while the construction sector mostly employs full-time workers with 51 per cent having a VET qualification.
Research by McCrindle in 2017 found the current over-emphasis on academic and university pathways meant VET pathways are often not given due consideration by high-school leavers.
"Public awareness and recognition of the crucial role that VET can play and is playing is poor."
However, the results speak for themselves. "When compared with employment outcomes for university graduates, VET continues to produce superior results, and has proven itself to be a more flexible, accessible and adaptable platform for educating and skilling Australians."