In recent months, a new realisation seems to be growing on those who are involved with educational decision making and the setting of priorities for students. It seems to be dawning upon us all, that there is more to education than university degrees and occupations based solely upon pure academics. That should be reassuring for those who are completing secondary school who are concerned that high level academic qualifications are prerequisite to every occupation in life.

So much is made of university qualifications, including batchelor and masters level degrees along with PhD’s, that little else seems to count. That is far from being the case. There are a myriad of excellent occupational opportunities available, requiring practical skills sets outside the scope of degree qualifications. The pity is that more is not made known about TAFE, VET and trade options when young people are considering career options. It seems that the thrust is toward the need for upcoming tertiary age students to only consider fully academically focused degree courses.

Tim Pitman and Gavin Moodie, writing for ‘The Conversation’ (Supporting part time and online learners is the key to reducing university drop-out rates) revealed that the first year university attrition average for Australia across all universities is under 15%. For the NT, that attrition rate is just above 26%. This means that one in very four students has cause to re-think tertiary studies.

There are many reasons for study discontinuity and one might well be a realisation that full blown degree study is not the best option. Re-thinking career options is obviously part of this double take. It might also be that study costs and the burden of an upcoming HECS debt weigh on the student conscience. Withdrawal from courses by March 31 in the year of enrolment, means that HECS debts are avoided.

The need for a re-think can leave students in a state of insecurity about what to do occupationally.

An option that might be considered is promoting to students the array of work opportunities available through trades training and related areas of occupational study. Our territory is desperately short of qualified people. Part of this is due to a misplaced belief that trades and apprentice-based training leads to second-class jobs. That is far from the case. Thriving communities need occupational balance and at the moment this is an area of distinct shortfall in the NT.

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