Tradies get paid more than university graduates, new research shows

The West Australian, 22 May 2017

Trade apprentices can look forward to the good life in their first year after training, with new research showing they face better immediate outcomes than university graduates.

While four in five parents push their children into going to university, the research shows vocational education and training graduates earn more in their first year, with a $56,000 median full-time income compared to $54,000 for bachelor degree graduates.

The research from Skilling Australia Foundation and McCrindle Research also destroys the myth that VET graduates struggle to find work, with 78 per cent of them employed soon after training, compared to 68 per cent of bachelor degree graduates.

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Many school leavers are giving tradie jobs a miss, leaving calls for urgent action on training

Skilling Australia Foundation chief executive Nicholas Wyman said public perceptions of the vocational education sector were widely out of step with reality.

“Australia’s VET sector, far from preparing students for low-skilled, low-paid or low-future work, produces highly skilled graduates with remuneration and employment outcomes comparable to — and sometimes surpassing — those of university graduates,” he said.

“The report shows there is currently an array of respectable, well-compensated, upwardly mobile careers that don’t require a university education.”

He said the VET jobs were in progressive, fast-growth industries, such as healthcare, biotech and cyber security, agriculture, information technology and service industries.

Carpenter Gavin McGowan, 30, spent a year at university before realising he was better suited to working with his hands, and said he had no regrets about the change.

The Noranda man, who runs a business called Floor It WA, said he earned $1700 a week in his first year out of his apprenticeship in 2009. While wages had moved both up and down since then, it was usually a decent income.

He said he would encourage his children to get a trade but his advice had nothing to do with income or speed of employment.

“I think it is a great way of life to look back on life and see the things you have created,” he said.

“There is great satisfaction in knowing someone is going to enjoy what you have created for the next 100 years.”