21 April 2024

Two million Aussies in jobs unrelated to their qualifications, says ABS

| Chris Johnson
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Two million employed Australians have jobs unrelated to their highest attained qualification, according to the latest ABS data. Photo: File.

Get a good education and you’ll get a good job, the saying goes.

That might well be the case, but figures just released show that two million employed Australians are working in roles that have nothing to do with their highest attained qualifications.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that for each of those workers, their highest qualification is not relevant at all to their current job.

The ABS conducted a Survey of Qualifications and Work between July 2022 and June 2023, asking employed people aged 15 to 74 whether the field of their highest non-school qualification (certificate, diploma and degree) was relevant to their current job.

Of the two million respondents who said their qualifications did not apply to their jobs, 42 per cent stated that the reason was they were no longer interested in the field of their highest qualification, or they had wanted a career change.

A further 24 per cent reported a lack of available positions in the field of their highest qualification.

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On the flipside, however, a majority of overall respondents said they were applying their highest level of education to their current work.

Most employed people aged 15-74 with one or more non-school qualifications said their highest qualification was relevant to their current job – 7.9 million or 79 per cent.

ABS head of education statistics Mell Plumb said: “Of these, 6.4 million workers said they worked in the field of their highest qualification.

“While 1.6 million workers were not working in the field of their highest qualification, they did have a qualification that was relevant to their current job.”

The data shows a total of 12.7 million people aged 15-74 having one or more non-school qualifications in 2022-23.

Of these, 1.4 million people had three or more qualifications, 3.2 million had two qualifications and 8.1 million had one qualification.

There were 6.3 million people with no qualifications.

“The proportion of people with one or more non-school qualifications rose to 67 per cent in 2022-23 from 62 per cent in 2018-19,” Ms Plumb said.

“Meanwhile, the proportion of people with no qualifications fell to 33 per cent, over the same time period, from 38 per cent.”

Of all those aged 15-74 with at least one non-school qualification, 51 per cent were women (6.5 million) and 49 per cent were men (6.2 million).

The Federal Government recently released the Australian Universities Accord Final Report with 47 recommendations to reform funding, the cost and availability of degrees and VET (vocational education and training) qualifications, and possibly change the way HECS and HELP loans are calculated and repaid.

The report says at least 80 per cent of the Australian workforce will require a degree or a VET qualification by 2050 to perform the jobs that will be required then, up from the current level of 60 per cent.

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However, it says: “Raising tertiary education attainment to these levels will not be easy. It can only be achieved by making the higher education system far more equitable.”

It also finds that the barriers between VET and higher education must be broken down to ensure a more seamless and integrated tertiary education system.

The report – authored by a review panel chaired by Professor Mary O’Kane – says a clear vision for tertiary education needs to be set to underpin a strong, equitable and resilient democracy, and to drive national economic and social development and environmental sustainability.

Apart from the increased tertiary education attainment rate, the report recommends increasing the proportion of university-educated Australians aged 25 to 34 from 45 to 55 per cent by 2050 and increasing the number of 25 to 34-year-olds with a tertiary-level vocational or technical qualification to 40 per cent by 2050.

Education Minister Jason Clare officially launched the report last month (February 2024), noting that 820 public submissions were received and 180 meetings with stakeholders were conducted.

“This is a plan not for one budget but a blueprint for the next decade and beyond,” he said.

“The Australian Universities Accord has recommended how to reform higher education over the next decade and beyond.”

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I’d argue that public service, admin, retail or hospitality roles don’t require any qualifications, with the very rare exception. No one in my department has relevant qualifications, and several high level staff have no tertiary qualifications at all. While students may learn “soft” skills, these could also be taught through internships or a “government” school in a fraction of the time. The remaining skills are learned on the job, and differ greatly between teams/departments. What’s more, is that encouraging young people to go $50-70k into debt to get a basic qualification they will never us is bordering on predatory. The rhetoric of “you need a degree to get a job” is outdated at best, and short of going into specialist fields, the time spent getting a qualification would be better spent on the job.

Open enough spots in the tafes and unis such that all students who satisfy the entrance requirements can come in. Tafes seen to be too full and yet there is shortage of people with tafe skills, especially tradies

That must also include 99% of politicians

Tom Worthington2:06 pm 22 Apr 24

Raising post school education attainment to 80 per cent of the workforce is not that hard. Workers don’t necessarily need a degree for an entry level job. A a certificate, or diploma, from a university or TAFE may do, and might be a better option. The student can get some work experience and decide if they like the job before investing years of their life, and tens of thousands of dollars of their money, in study. Any study they have done is not necessarily wasted, as many so called “soft” skills they will learn in introductory courses are common, such as safety in the workplace, how to talk to the client & the boss, how to work in teams, and how to manage a project.

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