Earn or Learn?

May 16, 2014 | Australian College

One of the more controversial elements of the recent federal budget was the “Earn or Learn” scheme that the government is introducing.

The government is committed to spend $14.9 million over two years to expand the work-for-the-dole program. In the first 6 months after leaving school young people will not be eligible for the dole unless they are in a course or are working in some capacity. After waiting six-months to receive benefits, unemployed young people will be required to work at least 25 hours a week.

Jobs brokers will be set up in 18 regions to secure work-for-the-dole placements with “host organisations” such as non-for-profit groups and local, state or commonwealth government agencies. Each job broker will have an annual budget of $300,000.

If a job seeker is unable to find work after six months of working for the dole, a wage subsidy may be available to an employer for six months. They are encouraged to undertake training or study, which could make them eligible for student benefits and set them up for future employment.

These changes could make the first 6 months the most important time in a young person’s working life.

The gap year as we know it might take on an entirely different form. Gone could be the days where it was possible to go on the dole and think about what career is interesting while possibly holidaying in Bali. The safety net of at least some financial freedom has been removed.

Using the gap year to complete vocational courses at the entry level of Certificate II and Certificate III as a preparation for potentially higher qualifications could be the new norm.

So what are the options?

  • Stay at school longer and complete a HSC or equivalent.
  • Leave and stay home for the 6 months with the assistance of parents until the welfare payments are made available and then attempt to find employment for the minimum 25 hours required for work for the dole scheme.
  • Find some form of employment to will help pay living expenses.
  • Explore the option of enrolling in a worthwhile course that could set you up for life without causing undue hardship. If enrolling in a course is your option what do you need look for in these uncertain times?

Initially, you should research vocational areas where there is possible employment. It would fruitless to select a course of study that does not provide any vocational outcome and at the same time is in a shrinking or in a non-existent industry. Look up the job classifieds or go on line to search for growth employment areas and their academic requirements.

You should do some research that can meet these needs and make a list of entry-level courses that have a vocational outcome in the area of your vocational interest. It is sometimes best to test the waters with a short course before going ahead full steam into unknown careers and extensive courses.

Most industry entry-level courses are at the Certificate II and Certificate III level. In some cases people will enrol in Diploma courses as their first entry into a career. They might find that the course is not what they thought nor was the industry their choice in gaining employment. Diploma courses can run into many thousands of dollars that the student will ultimately have to pay back. Certificate II and Certificate III courses fees are typically 50%-75% cheaper than Diploma courses.

In the first instance there is no reason to get into huge financial debt by enrolling a courses that offers VET FEE Help at Diploma level as they are often more expensive than user pay models or payment plans. It is financially more effective to seek more sensible payment plans with preferably no interest if the course is completed within 12 months.

When there is an element of uncertainty in the field of study selected and you have enrolled in University degree program the cost can be prohibitive. Most university degree programs have a dropout rate of approximately 30% in their first year.

With the deregulation of university fees there will no doubt be an increase in course costs as they become more financially autonomous.

  • Explore the option of flexible delivery courses as they can possibly be fast tracked within a shorter time period. You can become qualified earlier than other traditional delivery courses.
  • Explore the option of online courses as they can give you the flexibility of not be required to attend lectures, reduced travel costs, free up time constraints.
  • Explore courses that might later lead to advanced standing in higher qualifications such as Diploma, Advanced Diploma or Undergraduate degrees. In the future you might decide to enroll in a more advanced course to further your career.

There are some courses that are dual qualifications that give you the benefit of getting into more than one industry. For example, you might decide to complete a Certificate II in Customer Contact at the same time completing a Certificate III in Business Sales. This option can become very cost effective as there is no repeat of subjects that single subjects often require.

In the entry level courses there may be some opportunity for Recognition of Prior Learning or Recognition of Current Competence from any earlier part employment that you have had in the past.

Explore the option of government allowances that are available for students in vocational education. This is typically offered at the Certificate II and Certificate III level.

What option will you select?

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