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ATARs no barrier to careers

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It was cheers or tears for thousands of school leavers today as the ATAR scores were accessed early this morning but with the world of work changing rapidly, is a high mark as important as it once was?

The trend in the UK is certainly towards elite universities setting their own entrance examinations and the proponents of the ATAR will be quick to tell you that it’s one of a number of assessments that institutions will use to select students.

And with esoteric qualities like entrepreneurship becoming a point of focus, a veering away from traditional career pathways is looking like the new normal. In fact a recent study conducted by accounting software firm Xero indicated that a staggering 90% of kids surveyed wanted to be in business for themselves.

Here’s an exercise: think of the four richest people you know of. The list will probably go like this, in no particular order: James Packer, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. What do they have in common besides a stack of the folding stuff? None have college or university degrees.

Rote based learning is falling out of favour with employers looking for transferable skills, flexibility and an ability to think on one’s feet, therefore the high employability of Arts graduates, in a three year follow up over 80% of Monash Arts graduates were in full time employment.

The growth driver of employment is unequivocally technology and the ability to program a computer is skills focused rather than degree focused, a poll of programmers in 2016 by Stackoverflow found 69.1% were largely self-taught and 13% said they were entirely self-taught.

Traditionally secure jobs are also being disrupted rapidly, the oversupply of law graduates has been well documented, if you marry that fact with the realisation that law practice is basically a database that professional pillar is looking decidedly shaky.

The same could be said for medicine, to wit the trend towards self-diagnosis through the internet.

There are many more career options than those that can be pursued through universities and many of them much more profitable than jobs that require a degree.

National figures from job quote website serviceseeking.com.au reveal the average plumber charges $78.40 an hour, up 1.9% on last year, and the average electrician charges $74.61 an hour, up 4%. The average Australian lawyer, by comparison, earns $37 an hour, according to PayScale. High flying barristers are an obvious exception but many in the legal profession work hard and long for a modest salary.

So the idea that an ATAR scored defines a person and their future prospects should probably be reconsidered and perhaps some of the triumphalism or dejection of results day should be tempered.


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