Work be­gins in halls of learn­ing

Start­ing a ca­reer by start­ing on the job is no longer an op­tion for many oc­cu­pa­tions, Ca­reerOne Edi­tor Cara Jenkin re­ports.

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ON-THE-JOB learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is be­ing dumped in favour of a uni­ver­sity de­gree for an in­creas­ing num­ber of oc­cu­pa­tions in the labour force. Some oc­cu­pa­tions, such as doc­tors, sci­en­tists and teach­ers, have long re­quired work­ers to at­tend a uni­ver­sity or col­lege to gain a qual­i­fi­ca­tion be­fore they can be hired.

But for many oc­cu­pa­tions, en­try level, cadet and ju­nior learn­ing pro­grams no longer ex­ist and in­stead uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates are re­quired be­cause they al­ready have knowl­edge and, in some cases, prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence to start work on the front foot.

Nurs­ing, ac­count­ing, fi­nance and agri­cul­ture are among the pro­fes­sions which once re­volved around on-the-job ex­pe­ri­ence but now re­quire work­ers to gain a de­gree first.

Cor­po­rate Ed­u­ca­tion Ad­vis­ers di­rec­tor Dr Lind­say Ryan says just about ev­ery ca­reer has some sort of aca­demic study as­so­ci­ated with it.

‘‘Nurs­ing, ac­count­ing, en­gi­neer­ing – there’s a whole range of pro­fes­sions, it’s quite wide­spread,’’ Dr Ryan says.

‘‘If you go back far enough, even lawyers would start as a clerk and learn on the job. But now they come out of uni hav­ing done a bach­e­lor of laws and do a place­ment with a law firm.’’

The cor­po­rate ed­u­ca­tion strate­gist says many pro­fes­sions have evolved, so now re­quire qualifications, while in­dus­try also has be­come more com­plex.

‘‘Nowa­days, with ur­ban plan­ning, it’s quite an aca­demic pro­gram and a four-year de­gree be­cause of the com­plex­ity and na­ture and de­gree of in­for­ma­tion which goes into com­mu­nity devel­op­ment,’’ he says.

‘‘Part of the work at uni­ver­sity is to look at how we do things and how we start to sim­plify them.’’

Dr Ryan says work­ers can learn on the job but un­der­stand­ing the op­er­a­tional side of the work and de­vel­op­ing a broader un­der­stand­ing of the pro­fes­sion can be gained by study­ing at a ter­tiary level.

‘‘The uni­ver­sity pro­vides the higher level – un­der­stand­ing why we do things and are there bet­ter ways of do­ing it, that’s how pro­fes­sions have evolved,’’ Dr Ryan says.

‘‘The prob­lems cre­ated to­day can’t be solved with the same level of think­ing that’s cre­ated them.’’

Aus­tralian In­sti­tute for So­cial Re­search ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Dr John Spoehr says it is a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy to in­crease the skills base of work­ers and pro­vide a bet­ter ca­reer path.

He says a uni­ver­sity qual­i­fi­ca­tion has his­tor­i­cally led to higher recog­ni­tion and bet­ter salaries for work­ers.

Nurses, for ex­am­ple, have more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and are tak­ing on more of the tasks doc­tors have his­tor­i­cally per­formed, Dr Spoehr says.

‘‘That’s put pres­sure back on the nurs­ing pro­fes­sion to in­tro­duce new cre­den­tials and higher qualifications, even a nurs­ing doc­tor­ate, which al­lows nurses to take on a wider range of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that nor­mally would have been done by doc­tors,’’ he says.

‘‘Nurse prac­ti­tion­ers are a good ex­am­ple of that.

‘‘In­creas­ingly MBAs have be­come the ticket to ca­reer ad­vance­ment and man­age­ment in Aus­tralia, whereas work­ing the way up through a com­pany has been the most com­mon path to man­age­ment po­si­tions un­til now.’’

He says the need for a qual­i­fi­ca­tion has fil­tered down to even en­try level po­si­tions, with many jobs need­ing work­ers to have at least com­pleted Year 12 or VET course.

‘‘Get­ting into a bank­ing and fi­nance ca­reer was avail­able to Year 10s and Year 11s, back in the 1970s and 1980s, with­out nec­es­sar­ily hav­ing com­pleted ma­tric­u­la­tion,’’ he says.

‘‘The whole train­ing revo­lu­tion that be­gan in the early 1980s be­gan to link ca­reer ad­vance­ment to qualifications and skills.’’

Depart­ment for Wa­ter hy­dro­ge­ol­o­gist Nico Kruger, 32, was hired to in­ves­ti­gate ground­wa­ter re­sources across the state with a dou­ble de­gree in busi­ness and sci­ence from Flin­ders Uni­ver­sity.

He says the busi­ness side has helped him deal with op­er­a­tional as­pects of the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor.

But he be­lieves that hav­ing a deep ground­ing in ground­wa­ter is­sues helps with his work.

‘‘Peo­ple have got to (the job) through cadet­ships but an aca­demic core is much more use­ful to have a ground­ing,’’ he says.

‘‘We spe­cialise within the area of ground­wa­ter, it’s a par­tic­u­lar area of sci­ence.’’

Pic­ture: Naomi Jel­li­coe

Hy­dro­ge­ol­o­gist Ni­cholas Kruger has a dou­ble de­gree in busi­ness and sci­ence from Flin­ders Uni­ver­sity.

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