Two degrees of separation

1 May 2020

It’s okay to do a trade

What we don’t yet know in these uncertain times is what business and employment will look like in six months. Unfortunately, as people lose their jobs, one unforeseen issue of the COVID-19 situation will be a further widening of the skills gap in trades – particularly automotive – in the medium-term future.

Automotive trades - mechanics, auto electricians, panel beaters and many more - have been in critical shortage for well over a decade. As parents wave their children off into higher education programs, we have effectively pulled the plug out of Australia’s skills pool.

We have all been tempted to believe that higher education is best. Even using the term ‘higher ed’ sends a clear message that everything else is ‘lower ed’. That’s just not right.

The result is that we now have plenty of double-degree baristas, but we can’t find enough people to fix the brakes on our vehicles.

Ironically, every automotive apprentice in Australia is employed from the day they start their apprenticeship until they finish it. This means their transition from training to employment is far more reliable than a graduating university student seeking work after study.  

It’s time to re-think how many young people we churn through universities, irrespective of the number of jobs available in the economy. We need to remind our youth of the benefits of trade careers and the value of being able to actually fix something. 

Come on Australia, be brave, tell your kids it’s okay to do a trade.  

Words: VACC CEO, Geoff Gwilym. As featured in the Herald Sun 1 May 2020.

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