Nine students from Newman Senior Technical College were in the audience at the ABC Studio in Ultimo, for the Q&A NSW School Special, which went live to air on Monday evening, November 6.
The Newman students – Stacee Kyle, Emma Waters, Harry Hanley, Jamie-Lee Smith, Jordie Gibson, Patrick McKinnon, Ruby Dickson, Lachlan Ross, and Ronan Cornel – were selected after the College applied to be part of the program.
The Q&A panel consisted of federal politicians Minister for Education, Senator Simon Birmingham and Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek as well as student representatives from four schools.
Newman Senior Technical College principal, Steve Pares, who attended Q&A with his students, said they joined representatives from schools all around the state to discuss a wide range of topics during the program.
“All students had to prepare and submit questions prior to the program for consideration – our students put in 10 questions mostly about developing Vocational Education as a career pathway,” Mr Pares said.
‘It was quite a nerve wracking process because, even up to the last minute, we didn’t know if the students would get the chance to ask any of their questions.
“Over 200 questions were submitted with only about a dozen shortlisted, so it was fantastic when Harry Hanley got to ask the question he wanted to the Minister for Education & Training, Simon Birmingham, during the program.”
Harry’s question was “Vocational Education & Training is often regarded as a lower class education yet it was most likely VET trained workers that built this ABC studio, set up your mics and are operating these cameras. What is the government doing to give VET the respect that it deserves?”
The Minister in responding to Harry’s question noted that vocational education results in better employment outcomes for students than university.
It was fantastic when Harry Hanley got to ask the question he wanted to the Minister for Education & Training, Simon Birmingham, during the program.Steve Pares
“If you pursue a vocational education pathway, particularly a traditional trades-based apprenticeship, your employment likelihood, if you complete that apprenticeship, is better than if you’ve gone to university. Your income is usually better at that stage than a starting graduate,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Certainly, for many professions or disciplines, an apprentice will go on to have better incomes than some university graduates. The likelihood of you being self-employed, owning your own business, all of those sorts of things, are also greater.
So there’s really a challenge there for us to make sure that people truly understand the benefits of thinking about vocational pathways.”
While program time constraints meant that the students were unable to ask more questions, it was a unique experience for all involved, Mr Pares said.
“We are really proud of the leadership shown by Newman College students at Q&A. They represented the College, regional NSW and all students who choose to study VET courses in an exemplary manner,” the school principal said.
Newman Senior Technical College has the highest number of VET student enrolments, on site, of any senior secondary school in the New South Wales. It caters for students in Year 11 and 12 and delivers the HSC with National qualifications through industry-based learning programs as an alternative to the ATAR.