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Australian Labour Market and Workforce Trends


This paper focuses on the Australian Labour market trends in relation to investment in human capital through higher education and vocational training. The vital importance of education in equipping the workforce to the changing technological trends cannot be ignored. The paper gives views on how Australia’s higher education is important in enabling the workforce to apply the knowledge gained. Vocational training mainly deals with increasing the efficiency of practical skills. Australia’s VET system has been involved in providing these skills with immense success. Australia’s apprenticeship Programme is well co-coordinated by the various stakeholders. The paper outlines that commitment to improving higher education in Australia has resulted in positive graduate employment outcomes that have continued to remain strong.

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The production of goods and services is incomplete without the vital input of labour. The demand for goods and services by the market is due to the demand for labour. It is evident that the growth of employment and the growth in the economy are highly mutually dependent. To increase formal human capital, workers mainly go for higher education and vocational training. These methods differ in their ultimate impact on the labour market as I am going to illustrate based on the Australian labour market.

Higher education refers to the stage in education that is post-secondary. It is mainly provided by universities and colleges that offer associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and Ph.D. degrees upon completion of the various courses. Higher education has now become a very important ingredient in most developing and developed countries of the world. It is a source of skilled personnel in the service industry. A list of institutions across Australia offers this type of education.

Vocational training, on the other hand, involves improving the learner’s proficiency in manual or practical activities. It equips the learner with skills in a particular occupation. Learning takes place at different levels including secondary and post-secondary levels. In other situations, people learn through apprenticeship. The increase in specialization in the labour market coupled with the increase in demand for a skilled workforce has raised the demand in investment in this type of training by the governments and businesses.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations website (2008) has details that the vocational training in Australia is mainly done at the post-secondary level. It is provided through the Vocational Education and Training (VET) arrangement by the Registered Training Organizations (RTO). The training programmes are recognized by all RTOs throughout the country, forms part of a Training Package that has been developed to meet the needs of a particular industry and produces qualification that is recognized by the Australian Qualification Framework.

The Group Training website (2009), details that the goals of the training are to create additional apprenticeship employment opportunities that otherwise may have not existed. It provides continuity of employment of Australian apprentices through to the completion of their Training and it improves the value and the breadth of the schooling systems particularly in medium-sized businesses. The Group Training Organization exposes trainees to a real work environment, which prepares the apprentice for the real job. In addition, the organization ensures that it maintains the terms of the agreement between employer and apprentice.

Australia’s apprenticeship Programme is clarified by Kemp (2005) who puts it that the system consists of apprenticeships in traditional trades and traineeships in other more service-oriented professions. The programmes involve a legal pact between the employer and the apprentice and wages are paid that increase as the process of learning progresses. It consists of the options of workplace training and training based in school. Apprentices and trainees are involved in the system for three to four years and for one to two years respectively. Kirby 2008 comments that investing in educational training equips the workforce with better skills in combating employment issues.

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Higher education and vocational training are all aimed at improving the skills of the workers, productivity, and the growth of quality employment in the labour market. The educational qualifications of an individual give vital information to potential employers in filling vacancies and assist the individual in developing a successful career path. The increase in the percentage of people with qualifications over and above that due to employment growth is the measure of skills deepening. The survey conducted in 2005 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) gave indications of skills deepening in Australia due to an increase in training done by the institutions of learning.

Qualified workers have net positive returns in earnings and a longer period in the workforce than people who lack qualifications. Their annual income is also elevated considerably. Burke et al and Ryan (cited in Shah & Burke 2006, p. 16) study indicates that with regard to VET qualifications, while higher rates of employment are associated with people who hold them; higher incomes are not always evident in Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website (2009) has details of the nationally conducted Survey of Education and Training (SET). The survey was conducted to get information from people on their participation in education and training and on their educational attainment. The study indicated that average earnings were a result of skills and competency attained through education. The population had attained good education from these programmes. From the report, it was clear that full-time employees with less than 10 years in the highest level of education, earned $ 790 in a week. This figure exempted owner-managers of corporate initiatives who obtained salaries or wages. The figure was $ 1,624 for the personnel with Postgraduate degrees.

Vocational training gives each worker competent skills in thriving in the labour market. The employability of the worker depends on the skills he or she possesses.

The Australian Apprenticeships’ website (2009) specifies that the Australian apprenticeships combine time at work with training and can be full-time, part-time, or school-based. The system offers varied benefits to the labour market. It is a great way to get a head start in the successful career path of individuals. It gives a great opportunity to have a paid work and structured training that can be done separately or simultaneously. The formal training time is considerably reduced as the existing skills and prior experience are recognized and the course credit granted. The training system provides the foundation for further education and training over the whole course of an individual’s working life as the qualifications and skills are nationally recognized. It is a direct pathway from school to work as apprenticeships seldom miss employment opportunities.

Hoeckel, Field, Justesen and Kim (2008, p.13) show that the VET programme in Australia has had tremendous success since its inception. The system is getting support from the stakeholders. Employers surveyed showed confidence in the programme and students have acknowledged the benefits they have reaped. The system is flexible as it is applicable to various situations of the learners. Despite marked differences among the states and territories, it allows for a fair degree of local autonomy and experimentation at both state and institutional levels. The difficulties facing Australia’s native people have been recognized, and efforts have been made to tackle them in many parts of the VET system.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace discussion paper on the Review of the Australian Higher Education (2008) give the functions of higher education in modern Australia. It notes that the education system is involved in developing high-level knowledge and skills for self-fulfillment, personal development, and preparing a highly productive, professional labour force. These benefits are appropriate to the needs and opportunities of the economy and its component industries and sectors. The higher education sector generates new knowledge and develops new applications of knowledge in the labour market by carrying out adequate research. The higher education system plays a vital role in meeting the needs of the labour market and industry for the much-needed high-level skills.

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics website (2009), reports that the changing nature of work has led to a greater number of VET graduates in the labour market. In 2005, of persons in or marginally attached to the labour force aged 15 to 64 years, 62 % had a vocational qualification, compared with 57 % in 2001, and 52 % in 1997. The report proves the increased dependence on the VET system by the workforce.

Gillard (2008) comments that investing in human capital is one of the best means available to ensure prosperity that leads to better economic growth, better education, and hence better work opportunities. She observes that due to the commitment to improving higher education, the graduate employment outcomes have remained strong and the graduate and employer satisfaction levels are generally good. She comments that in the past a shortage of Australian-trained doctors and nurses had been felt due to negligence in providing adequate training. The other areas that have been hampered include early childhood educators and school teachers, qualified engineers, and also logistical workers.

Human capital development is fundamental in enhancing productivity in industry and society. In getting higher education, individuals improve their skills and abilities in the application of knowledge. The changes in globalization demand an ability to innovate and adapt to stay relevant in skills in the job market. The Australian labour market has incorporated this strategy well in their system. VET is doing a good job of elevating problems facing natives in Australia.


Australian Apprenticeships (2008), About Australian Apprenticeships, Australia, Web.

Australia Bureau of Statistics 2009, Education and Training Experience, Australia, Web.

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2008, Review of the Australian Higher Education discussion paper, Canberra city, 2009, Web.

Gillard, J 2008, a higher Education: Creating a productive, Prosperous, Modern Australia. Ministers’ Media Centre. 2009, Web.

Group Training 2008, Group Training, Australia, Web.

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Hoeckel K, Field S, Justesen T, & Kim, M 2008, Learning for Jobs, OECD Review of Vocational Education & Training in Australia, 2009,

Kirby, P 2008, Report of the Committee of inquiry into Labour Market Programs, Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs, 2009, Web.

Kemp, D 2005, a modern apprenticeship & traineeship system, Department of Education, Science and Training, Australia, 2009. Web.

Shah, C, & Burke G 2006, qualifications and the future of the labour market in Australia, Monash University, 2009. Web.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations 2008, The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Australia, 2009. Web.

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