VET will be the skilling ‘engine’ of our future workforce: Sara Caplan, PwC

In the first episode of a new podcast from VETtrak’s parent company ReadyTech, PwC’s national skills lead Sara Caplan tells CEO Marc Washbourne there’s an engine for our skills needs – and that engine is VET.

It’s something that we, working in the VET sector, inherently know to be true. It’s also something that for many years now, we’ve been communicating patiently to both policymakers and the public.

And in a new podcast from VETtrak’s parent company ReadyTech, Skills for Australia CEO at PwC, Sara Caplan, says it very clearly: VET should be the skilling and reskilling engine of our future economy.

Speaking with ReadyTech CEO Marc Washbourne on new podcast WorkED, Caplan says something she would like to change in the future is the lack of prominence given to VET pathways in schools.

She says at present, VET options are not featured enough in comparison with other pathways.

“I would like to see that change,” she says. “We did some work last year to look at career and skills pathways and found there is a lack of information in schools – often because the schools themselves find it difficult to know where to get information from or what is the most valid and up-to-date information – and therefore they tend not to give a lot of information about vocational pathways,” Caplan says.

“That has to change because I think vocational education is going to be sort of the engine of workforce skilling and reskilling. If we can improve vocational pathways in schools I think we are also giving a richer experience to pupils, which enables them to have both the traditional learning and foundations to take them forward but also experience some of that work-related learning or project related learning.”

In a wide-ranging conversation on subjects like lifelong learning and the future of tertiary education, Caplan argues for the role vocational education will play. Caplan says our tertiary education system as a whole is highly regarded, despite some local negativity.

“When I travel overseas and go to different countries, the Australian education system is held in very high regard,” Caplan says. “People envy what we have here in Australia. Sometimes I don’t think we realise how much, and we sometimes talk it down, but other people think it is fantastic.

“We are punching way above our weight in terms of international students which is very good for the economy, very good for Australian universities, and increasingly good for the vocational education system who are also part of that international education sector.”

Vocational education providers in particular are well placed to meet Australia’s future skills challenges, particularly in areas that require strong technical skills.

“If you look at the work we are doing currently in the naval shipbuilding sector where a whole range of skills are going to be needed over the next 25 years, ranging from advanced techniques in welding to complex project management and everything in between. Some of those skills are very much in the vocational provider sector and some of them are in the university sector,” Caplan says.

“So for one of the first times we have everybody in the continuum of education working together to create a seamless pathway so that people can progress through and gain the skills they need at every level.”

WorkED Episode 001 – Reinventing education with Sara Caplan

Do you want to hear more from Sara Caplan? With a history advising business and government around the globe on what tertiary education does right, as well as what it does wrong, on WorkED’s launch episode Sara shares her personal journey from studying Maths at university and managing a pub to a career in management consulting at PwC, in order to shed a light on how tertiary education as we know it might just need to be reinvented. Highlights include Sara’s take on higher ed around the world, the resurgence of vocational education, and her call for employers to get busy playing a role as the reskillers of the future.

Listen now on the ReadyTech website or Spotify.

About WorkED

WorkED is a new podcast from VETtrak’s parent company ReadyTech, investigating what the future of education and work will really look like and asking whether we’re ready for it. In conversation with ReadyTech CEO Marc Washbourne, leading thinkers in the fields of education, employment and technology come together to share their personal work stories and challenge the outmoded thinking, business models, community assumptions and policies being reshaped or upended by technology.