Rethink training and jobs for better skills match

Media release 15 June 2015

Reforming training qualifications could provide workers with stronger capabilities, enabling them to adapt more quickly to changing labour market, and help reduce persistent skills mismatch, new research finds.

Published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Linking qualifications and the labour market through capabilities and vocational streams is the final report from a three year program that investigated the educational and occupational paths people take and how their study relates to their work.

Many graduates do not end up in jobs directly related to their qualifications. Prompted by weak links, the researchers explored and tested the notion of ‘vocational streams’.

‘Vocational streams’ are work-related capabilities that share common knowledge, skills and practice across inter-related occupations (for example, commonalities between aged care and disability care are part of the broader vocation of ‘care work’). They are best identified by collaboration with ‘social partners’ made up of employers, unions and professional, occupational and accrediting bodies, educational institutions and governments.

The researchers suggest that qualifications could be redesigned using vocational streams as a structuring guide and the identified shared capabilities as the basis for the curriculum. They argue that the development of such streams would provide graduates with more transferable skills, so they can better adapt to changing labour market circumstances. This, in turn, would ease the difficulty faced by organisations when sourcing workers.

This notion was tested with four industries – agriculture, community services and health care, electrical trades and engineering, and financial services.

“We found that support for vocational streams varied greatly between the four sectors”, says co-researcher Dr John Buchanan from the University of Sydney.

“Two conditions are needed if vocational streams are to help overcome deep segmentation in these sectors. First, there must be common practices, knowledge, skills and personal attributes shared by workers across related occupations. Second, the social partners need to be prepared to collaborate on the development of pathways between such related occupations.

“We conclude that better links between education and work will occur and a more coherent approach to vocational development will result if educator and social partners collaborate to nurture better vocational streams.”

Copies of Linking qualifications and the labour market through capabilities and vocational streams, are available from Also released today is a suite of research summaries for industry, government and policy-makers, tertiary education providers, and qualification and approval bodies; copies are available from

Media enquiries: Anna Payton, Media and Communications Officer, P+61 8 8230 8638 or 0413 606 134

LH Martin Institute (University of Melbourne) in conjunction with NCVER, are hosting two public seminars to discuss the findings and policy implications from this research and other work arising from three-year research consortium. These seminars will be held in Sydney and Melbourne in late July. Further information will be made available from the LH Martin website.