University students are facing an increasingly tough job market upon graduating, with unrealistic job expectations adding to the difficulty. Graduates’ perceptions on job security and expectations for their starting salary are coming head-to-head with employers’ skill and experience requirements.
So what is the true nature of the labour market and how can the education sector help to set realistic expectations?
Unrealistic Expectations Among Students
Life as a new graduate isn’t easy. While graduates understand that finding a full-time job right away is unrealistic, studies show that salary and career expectations are still skewed among young people.
With 65% of Generation Y already having a tertiary qualification under their belts, the job market is saturated.
ABC News figures show that 30% of university graduates were still unemployed four months after completing their studies, and 15% were still unemployed four years later.
Far too many students are pursuing the same handful of fields, such as Science and Arts, leading to poor graduate employment outcomes. Entry-level salaries are also low in many popular fields, with greater remuneration lying in other areas that students may not be aware of.
University qualifications also delay earning years, with salaries not justifying the years spent on higher education.
In fact, VET graduates earn higher salaries than university graduates and enjoy better job prospects while spending less time and money getting qualifications.
Specifically, TAFE graduates have a starting salary that is $2000 higher than university graduates.
Unfortunately, school leavers considering further education are not adequately informed of these discrepancies, leading many into unprofitable degrees when they may have been better off with a VET qualification under their belts.
All these factors put new graduates in an extremely difficult position right from day one of entering the world of work. Without a shift in expectations, university graduates are set to continue suffering from low salaries and job insecurity.
Unrealistic Expectations Among Employers
Employers also have unrealistic expectations of graduates, with there being a mismatch of qualifications and the skills actually required to perform in-demand jobs.
According to the Australian Government’s JobJumpstart, employers have found that young people are often unprepared for the demands of the workplace, the level of pay they are to receive, and the requirement to work their way up to the top.
While politicians talk of a skills gap, graduates face an experience gap in the working world. Employers prefer to recruit young people who have work experience, putting university students at an inherent disadvantage.
Solutions Within the Education Sector
In a Business Council of Australia report entitled “Future-Proof: Australia’s Future Post-Secondary Education and Skills System”, it was found that young people are not given the information they need to make informed decisions about their future.
Funding was also found to unfairly favour university study, with qualifications also taking too long for the changing world of work. Describing the higher education system as “provider-centred”, BCA suggests shifting to a “learner and employer-centred system instead.”
BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott elaborates on this point, being quoted as saying:
“There is no common information base that allows people to choose between a VET provider or a university that gives them the information they need about the course, the likely cost, the loan, the job prospects or what they’ll earn.”
A better picture of potential career paths needs to be provided to students. Of course, university education is still incredibly valuable, but is not necessarily suitable for everyone.
Students who fall in this latter category should be guided towards VET courses that are more in line with their goals, instead of creating a perception that university is the only valid option. Young people also need help finding out what skills are needed in industries of their interest.
Apprenticeships and traineeships are integral to addressing employers’ need for greater work experience, with these VET programs providing much-needed on-the-job training. By choosing a VET field that’s in demand, you will become a valuable employee and enjoy higher salaries and benefits as companies compete over you.
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