What Are Flexible Industry Pathways?

March 4th, 2021 Features

In what will be the biggest overhaul of VET schools in a generation, the South Australian government is now introducing Flexible Industry Pathways, a program aimed at placing a bigger emphasis on VET in secondary schools in order to lead to more meaningful job outcomes. The idea is to provide a pool of skilled professionals employers can draw from directly out of school, and to give professionals the guidance they need to secure work at the end of their studies. In this post we cover some of the details of this new initiative.

What are flexible industry pathways?

Flexible Industry Pathways are the government’s new strategy for closing the skills gap and helping students become job-ready professionals by the time they enter the workforce. Partnering with 26 industries, schools will incorporate VET training guidance into curricula so that students gain insight into which career paths appeal to them and what a career in a specific industry might entail. The structured program will help students follow trade and trainee pathways directly into industries which have been identified as having a high percentage of job opportunities.

Why do we need flexible industry pathways?

The transition from school to work is becoming a more complex process as the skills gap widens and schools struggle to keep up with a quickly changing job landscape. Frequently, the skills employers are looking for simply can’t be found in the available pool of job candidates, and resources are then channeled into on-the-job training, resulting in less efficient onboarding. For instance, the South Australia Department for Education reports the following findings:

  • Youth unemployment currently sits at 14.2%. COVID-19 has impacted the number and types of jobs available, and has created uncertainty for the future world of work.
  • Only 67% of students transition from school to earning or learning.
  • The South Australian Training and Skills Commission has identified that 84% of the 50 occupations projected to have the most jobs growth in the next 8 years do not require a bachelor degree.
  • Young people tell us they have a better understanding of university pathways than VET pathways, apprenticeships and traineeships.
  • Employers and industry tell us that students need a range of employability skills and competencies in addition to technical knowledge, to better prepare them for the workplace.
  • The average transition time from education to full-time work is 4.7 years, compared to 1 year in 1986. Young people say this is due to not having enough work experience, lack of appropriate education, lack of career management skills and a lack of available jobs.

The Flexible Industry Pathways initiative targets these findings by helping students reflect on their career goals and understand the available options on the job market. Industry immersion activities help students gain a more direct idea of the kind of work they’d be doing in a given industry. Quality career counselling and planning support is provided. Students will learn how to develop ePortfolios, participate in World of Work (WoW) Challenges, use an online portal, and be part of an online community.

What are the pathways to employment?

The flexible pathways provided to students will help them map out their journey from secondary school to employment. Career education, industry immersion, school-based apprenticeships, and traineeships will all be part of the process. According to the Department of Education website, the pathways may even include VET qualifications at Certificate II and III level that each industry deems suitable for secondary school students. They also include “enterprise and employability skills training delivered through SACE, and any specific industry requirements linked to the pathway.” Importantly, the pathways include “compulsory SACE subjects and contextualized delivery of other school subjects so that students can complete both a VET qualification and their SACE concurrently.”

The 26 key industries included in the flexible pathways program in 2021 are as follows: aged care and disability, agriculture, animal care, aquaculture, automotive retail, service and repair, building and construction, childcare, civil construction, conservation and land management, cyber, education, electrotechnology, entrepreneurial (small business owner), food processing, forestry, hair and beauty, health support, horticulture, hospitality, information, communication and technology, manufacturing and engineering, maritime, meat processing, plumbing, screen and media production, gaming and visual effects, and tourism.

Exactly how Flexible Industry Pathways will transform educational and career outcomes for Australian students is yet to be discovered, but what’s clear is that the initiative represents a major step forward in reducing the skills shortage and helping connect students to meaningful work in order to become successful professionals in the future.


Saga Briggs is an author at InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or read more of her writing here.

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