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Understanding the numbers: degree-level graduates who go on to do industry training

27 August 2018 | news

The answer is not completely clear-cut because there is currently no national database listing exactly what industry training the degree-holders completed, or what job title they were employed under. That means we can’t tell if they are training to build on their degrees or to replace them. We also can’t assess whether they were in degree-level employment or not at the time they undertook the sub-degree training.

In 2016, there were 17,600 people with a degree (bachelor’s or higher) who did some sort of sub-degree-level industry training. Of those, 2,745 were degree holders studying towards an apprenticeship of some sort (plumber, builder etc). These numbers are similar to those in earlier years.  Note that at the time of the 2013 Census, 408,435 people were recorded as having a degree in New Zealand.

The Census data helps us to some extent. It lists the job titles graduates are employed under. We do know from looking at the 2013 Census that 89% of people with a degree were working under job titles that we would categorise as roles that usually require a degree—doctor, teacher, engineer and so on. However, 11% of degree-holders were in jobs that don’t appear to require a degree—like receptionist, gardener or courier.

Looking at the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), we can get more detail on their background and employment history, before and after training.

We can see around 55% of the degree-holders who did industry training were not born in New Zealand—they migrated here. That’s a pretty large percentage, given only 28% of the working age population are migrants.

On the face of it, the 2,775 (15.8%) of those who did post-degree industry training recorded as ‘apprenticeships’ are people who are retraining for something probably not envisaged when they did their degrees.

Of that number, 1,755 held degrees gained in New Zealand. Were all of them giving up their law, history or teaching degrees to become plumbers, carpenters and electricians? It seems unlikely—particularly as about half of those recorded as taking on apprenticeships are only recorded as having done study lasting between 3 and 12 months. Actual apprenticeships take 3-4 years. This means there are probably some issues with the data—probably certain types of training are being coded incorrectly.

Of the other 14,825 (84.2%) people who did industry training, 85% were in employment before they did their studies, and 70% of them were with the same employer two months after completing their training—suggesting that they were not retraining for different careers or jobs, but rather undergoing training for their current job.

In the annual report for one of New Zealand’s Industry Training Organisations, ServiceIQ, a number of case studies are listed, including two people with degrees who got jobs in museums and did job-related training through the ServiceIQ ITO to complement the more general degree-level education that had gained them the job in the first place.

The following are excerpts from case studies in the ServiceIQ 2016 Annual Report.

“Bernise arrived at the museum three years ago. She already had a Bachelor in Māori Visual Arts, but to support her new role, she went on to complete a ServiceIQ New Zealand Certificate in Museum Practice and attended workshops arranged by National Services Te Paerangi. The combined training has given her the skills her job demands, including a knowledge of conservation, plus extensive detective work.”

“Matthew, front of house manager at Auckland’s Maritime Museum…is an anthropology and archaeology graduate, completing a Masters in Museum Studies... He and his front-of-house team are all completing a New Zealand Certificate in Tourism (Visitor Experience) Level 3... To make sure everyone is in the same boat, training is done as a team... Six months down the track, Matthew and his team are close to successfully completing the programme.”

We can’t conclusively say that these stories are the same for all other degree-qualified graduates undergoing industry training, but it seems likely, given what we know from the Census about most graduates ending up in degree-relevant jobs.

Degree-level education is only ever supposed to produce graduates who are work- and career-ready. It can’t generally produce graduates who are perfectly trained for any of the vast range of jobs in specific workplaces around New Zealand.

There will always be some need for on-the-job training to provide the job-specific skills and knowledge that complement the more generic competencies and knowledge gained through a degree.