A new survey, involving over 3,000 Australian young people has revealed that those who choose trades over university degrees are experiencing both increased wealth and happiness compared to their tertiary educated counterparts by the age of 25. 

Both trade and post-graduate qualifications are higher in occupation-specific skills or discipline-specific knowledge and the Ai Group’s Centre for Education and Training report highlights work based learning and experience as key factors for early advancement in the workplace.  

Chief Executive of Ai Group, Innes Willox said that those with focused qualifications, like that of a trade, traineeship or post-graduate are showing stronger early employment rates. 

“This data tells us that education and training pathways that have a closer or more direct link to an industry or occupation can deliver strong outcomes,” Mr Willox said. 

“A key overall finding from the research is that opportunities to apply what you learn in a ‘real world’ setting and a clear link between education and training and the work you aspire to do are as valuable now as they have ever been.” 

In 2023, there are more individuals with bachelor’s degrees among working age Australians than ever before, however, a staggering 36 per cent of graduates are currently in jobs below their skill-level and this misalignment of qualification to remuneration is resulting in lower job satisfaction. Not only were tradies reported as happier, they also earn, on average, 16 per cent higher than bachelor’s graduates by their mid-twenties.

The report analysed a number of different aspects of work satisfaction including remuneration and opportunities for promotion, finding that those with post-graduate degrees are the most satisfied overall at age 25. 

The recent discourse surrounding university graduate satisfaction comes at a pertinent time for the Australian Federal Government, who late last year announced a $2.7 million investment into the Universities Accord. The Accord will look to address a variety of key areas to improve the Australian tertiary education system in terms of quality, affordability, accessibility and sustainability.  

Education Minister, Jason Clare last year addressed the triumphs and shortcomings of the 2008 Bradley Review of Higher Education and his hopes for this year’s Accord. 

“An Accord that looks at everything from funding and access, to affordability, transparency, regulation, employment conditions and how higher education and vocational education and training can and should work together,” Mr Clare said. 

“A big piece of work. An even bigger opportunity to make real long-lasting change.”

The Accord faces the difficult challenge of replacing the Job-ready Graduates Package, introduced by the Morrison government in 2021, which subsidised some degrees and increased the fees of others, in an attempt to invest in education areas of ‘national priority’. 

The Universities Accord’s final report is due at the end of the year.