We are facing a national skills shortage. Without enough skilled workers, Australia risks losing its footing as one of the world’s most advanced economies with 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth – a record unequalled by any other developed nation.

Every time I meet with industry leaders, they all say a shortage of critical skills will impact industry productivity. A strong Vocational Education Training (VET) sector is key to our economic prosperity.

Our education must meet industry requirements and not train for training’s sake. After all, it is industry who are the future employers of today’s students. It also has to appeal to the students so that they want to continue learning beyond school.

This means teaching the knowledge and skills required to get the right job. That means a job that inspires them and harnesses their talents, so that they actually want to turn up for work every day.

For some, this will mean going to university. We have a strong and robust tertiary education sector in NSW which attracts people from around the world.

But for many, an equal and alternate pathway is VET. We have to inspire the 50 per cent of high school graduates who aren’t going to university by promoting VET as a better path towards meaningful careers.

We all know there is a cultural bias towards university but university isn’t always the best option. For some students, we actually hinder their opportunities by not encouraging them into a vocational pathway.

We are wrongly telling them that university is the “better” option.

I like the way Premier Gladys Berejiklian phrased it when she said we want universities and VET to be thought of in the same sentence for workers looking to prepare themselves for high value jobs of the future.

It’s our job to show students, parents and careers advisers the myriad benefits of a VET pathway.

So how do we encourage more young people to choose a vocational education?

We show them the benefits. We remove the barriers in our education system. We talk to them about it at school before they’ve started HSC.

We showcase successful young apprentices, many of whom are working on once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure projects that provide the opportunity to learn and earn.

It’s our responsibility to promote VET, to encourage students to think about what inspires them and what careers they’d like.

I’m committed to enabling students to find the best pathway for them, whether that be vocational education or university.

Article from, smh.com.au, written by Dr Geoff Lee, NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education.