The ABS update on Qualifications and Work in Australia finds 9.4 million Australians aged 15-64 years had a qualification in vocational or university education in 2015, up from 8.7 million in 2014.
The data confirms that a university education is good for employability, with more than three in four people with a post-school qualification employed (82 per cent) – compared to 61 per cent of those without a post-school qualification.
The ABS figures also underscore the need in a rapidly changing economy for higher education to prepare people for career shifts and equip them with broad skills that can be deployed in a wide range of jobs.
To illustrate this point, while two in three people with a bachelor’s degree are currently working in the field of their highest qualification, one in three has gone on to work in a new field.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said that in a diversifying economy, the average person is even more likely to have many careers throughout their lifetime.
“The good news that in this rapidly-changing workforce, the skills and knowledge acquired in a degree continue to make workers more employable and less likely to be unemployed,” Ms Robinson said.
“A degree equips people with both specialist and broader employment skills that will be vital for a wide variety of jobs through a person’s working life,” she said.
“As we noted in our policy statement Keep it Clever, in 2013, 40 per cent of working Australians had changed their occupation in the last 12 months and around 40 per cent of Australian jobs that exist today are set to be replaced by new economy jobs within the next two decades.”
“In that economic context, the communication, problem-solving and critical thinking skills acquired in a degree will become even more important for the workers of today and tomorrow.”
Modelling by Deloitte Access Economics has found Australia’s economy will need at least 3.8 million more skilled graduates within the next ten years to meet the needs of a changing labour market.