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