The Chief Executive of the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), Suresh Manickam, wants young people and their parents to know there are rewarding, challenging and lucrative alternatives to university study.
In a recent article in The Australian, Mr Manickam, said NECA apprentices in NSW, QLD and the ACT, earn an average of $160,000 during their apprenticeships and pay no fees while university graduates typically incur a $20,000 to $40,000 HECS debt, depending on the course.
“Starting salaries then exacerbate the gap. First-year electricians in NSW earn anywhere between $58,000 and $91,000 compared with an average of $60,000 for university graduates,” he said.
Also, a surplus in supply of university graduates in some areas is driving down salaries and employment opportunities.
On the flipside, “the shortage of electricians means the skills are in high demand, salaries are good and there is plenty of work, particularly on major infrastructure projects”.
Mr Manickam said 99% of NECA apprentices went straight into full-time employment compared with just 70.9% of graduates.
He talks about the disruptive impact automation is anticipated to have on workplaces and cites the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report which identifies that the following roles as redundant: auditing, accounting, analysts and lawyers.
“Demand for electrical skills, on the other hand, is unlikely to slow; after all, electricians will be wiring up the robots and computers that replace people in other professions,” Mr Manickam said.
And it was important not to think of skilled career trade training and university study as mutually exclusive.
“Many of those who train as NECA apprentices go on to study at university later in the career for a masters in engineering, for example. This is a considered decision to further develop specific skills, rather than automatically enrolling for a degree because that’s what society expects,” he said.
Mr Manickam said he was pleased to see the government taking positive steps to promote vocational training.
He said industry, schools and universities all had a role to play in promoting different career paths.
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