Diploma’s or Certificate – Employments outcomes v Qualification level (The problems of Australia’s debt fuel Diploma industry)
October 24, 2014 Leave a comment
Given a number of discussion I have had recently around Vocation training (VET) in Australia and in particular the rise of debt funded diploma industry I thought I might take a look at some actual figures and see whether or not getting a Diploma (AQF level 5) made any significant difference to employment options and outcomes, or whether it was the case that a lower AQF qualification, in particular level IV or III actually had the same or better outcomes in terms of employment. So to the figures.
As most of you know NCVER is the place to go to look at statistics relating to the VET industry in Australia. Now it is important to note that this data is around 12 months old, but still I think worth looking at now if only in the context of us then being able to comment on the new data when it comes out.
If we look at the student outcomes to total VET activity by key measures table it seems to be at least to my eyes beginning to tell us some interesting stories. If we look at table 21 – Key findings for graduates by qualification firstly what do we see?
We see that the biggest proportional increase in employment before and after training at 8.9% is at the Certificate II level with the Certificate III (7.8%) and Certificate I (6.9%) not far behind. The lowest performers (and significantly lower are Certificate IV and Diploma or above Qualifications at 1.6% and 1.7% respectively.
When we look at table 22 which represent module completer’s rather than graduates we see that the situation is even worse with what appears to be almost 1% fewer people employed out of those that started but did not complete a diploma level course again with the result better at a certificate III, II and I level.
And the trend continues when we look at Improved employment status after training for those employed before training, at a certificate III and II level 21% of respondents were employed at a higher skill level while only 14% and 10 % for Diploma’s and Certificate IV’s. Of those not employed before training 51% of Certificate III graduates were employed after the training as opposed to 43% at a Diploma level.
So what does this all mean?
Well and I am happy to take any challenges to this as I am now making some assumptions, what I think it shows is that if you are unemployed your best choice in terms of what training to undertake in order to maximise your ability to gain employment is to undertake a certificate III level qualification. It also seems even if you are employed and you want to improve your employment outcomes a certificate III is still the better option. This becomes even more relevant when we start to consider the relative costs of certificate III vs Diploma programs. Certificate III, negligible cost to participant due to direct government funding arrangements versus up to $20,000 debt through government study assistance for a diploma.
It seems to me, and this has been my position for a long time, when we look at the vocational education system in this country and how it relates to that group of people who have for whatever reasons not gone on to tertiary education, it seems that the best approach is to undertake lower level courses (certificate II and III) courses to maximise the opportunity of gaining employment and then whilst employed access higher level training qualifications to improve overall job position. This use of the system seems to be supported in general (particularly in QLD) by the structure of government funding, where Certificate III level qualifications are heavily subsidised for people without qualifications, yet higher level (IV and V) qualifications require participants to already be employed in the sector they wish to study in. Also given that gaining a higher level qualification first, rules out the possibility of individuals or employers being able to fund lower level qualifications, it really does seem to me to be the case that you are far better off, starting at a lower level of qualification and working your way through the system, than starting higher up the ladder and hoping for an employment outcome.