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What is Vocational Education and Training (VET)?

For high employability, practical, hands-on learning, and a range of unique, specialised courses, many students look to Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers.

Studying a VET course can be an excellent option for international students who are looking for a quicker path into the workforce and a focus on industry-based skills. In fact, a 2023 labour market report found that 60 per cent of total employment growth in 2022 was in occupations where VET qualifications were the main pathway.

You might have noticed VET getting a bit of media coverage recently. In this article, we’ll dive into what VET offers and why it’s been in the news, making sure you have all the information you need about this study pathway.

What is VET?

There are so many different study options available to international students in Australia, so you may be wondering what VET study is, and the qualifications you can gain. VET focuses on real-world skills to prepare people for various jobs, including in a trade or craft. While university tends to teach a broad range of theories, VET focuses on specific skills for a particular workplace, meaning there is a range of unique and interesting courses for students to choose from.

In Australia, VET providers must be approved for registration on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) before they can teach international students. You can use the Australian Governments CRICOS register to see if your institution is a registered provider.

Why you may have seen VET in the news lately

This week, a report from a recent parliamentary inquiry into VET was published, offering suggestions for enhancing the system to improve its reputation and more effectively tackle skill shortages in Australia. Released on 25 March 2024, the report emphasises the value of VET qualifications and proposes reforms aimed at improving visibility and accessibility to VET courses for both Australian and international students.

As part of the results of the inquiry, the federal parliament has made 34 recommendations on how to update the VET system based on this information. These recommendations included: 

  • A makeover of the Your Career website, with more comprehensive information on courses, qualifications and career pathways. This will make searching for courses easier and information on potential careers more accessible for international students.
  • Identifying future skills needs and actively promoting courses that would lead to careers in those sectors. This would help international students to gain experience in valuable industries.
  • Enhancing apprenticeships by piloting a network of industry-led apprenticeship support providers, lifting pay and conditions, and exploring new apprenticeship pathways.
  • Addressing systemic barriers to women’s participation in VET, with a focus on eliminating gender-based violence and workplace discrimination and challenging gender stereotypes.
  • Continue to upgrade and modernise facilities on technical and further education (TAFE) institute campuses and improve key support services on TAFE campuses, ensuring that students have access to counselling, career advice, legal services, health services, and disability support.

In response to the recommendations, the NSW Teachers Federation have said that VET is a ‘launching pad for fulfilling, lifelong careers’ and that the recommendations must be ‘urgently implemented’, while the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia stated that the system will ‘benefit from [these] policy reforms’.

VET qualifications are important to many occupations where there is a skills shortage, and give students strong future job prospects. These recommendations will help to ensure more students have access to VET courses, helping them to gain practical skills to succeed in their careers.

Why study a VET course?

There are several reasons to study a VET course, including:

Hands-on experience

While university tends to offer a more theoretical education, VET courses provide industry-standard training facilities so you can learn real-world skills in the classroom and apply them on the job. This is especially valuable if youre studying a trade or craft, such as construction or cookery.

Pathway to university

As an international student, you can use VET as a pathway into university, whether through partnerships with various universities or through credit transfers. This is a great option if youre not feeling confident about heading to university yet, didnt get the marks necessary to enter a university degree, or want to try a brand new course in a shorter timeframe, before proceeding to further studies. Contact your VET provider to see what pathway options are available to you.

Earlier entry into the workforce

In most cases, students graduate from VET faster than from university; many VET qualifications can take from six months to two years full-time to complete, whereas it takes three years at a minimum to complete a degree. This means you can enter the workforce more quickly and start earning a salary.

Courses on offer

There is a diverse range of courses on offer through VET. In particular, there is a focus on progressive, fast-growing industries to improve students’ employability. You can pursue studies in a variety of fields, including healthcare, information technology, tourism and hospitality, accounting, and bookkeeping, among others.

You can also tailor your course to very specific skills. For example, students can study live production and technical services (i.e. working behind the scenes in theatre, film or TV), fashion design, or animation.

To explore the courses available to you, head to the CRICOS register.

Degree levels

There are a number of qualifications to choose from at various VET providers, depending on the duration of the course and the industry youd like to enter. Some courses offer a more basic overview of a subject and tend to be shorter, whereas others are more specialised, often involving work placement, which will take longer.

Some of the most common qualification types in Australia include Certificates (I-IV), Diplomas, and Undergraduate degrees.


Ranging from Certificate I to Certificate IV courses, the higher the certificate number, the higher the level of skill a graduate will have. With a Certificate I, you will have knowledge and skills for entry-level work, while a Certificate IV will give you the practical and theoretical skills for specialised skilled work.


A Diploma will give a graduate more specialised knowledge and skills, an Advanced Diploma will offer broader knowledge for graduates, and a Graduate Certificate and Diploma produce graduates with advanced level knowledge and skills for professional work.


Some VET providers offer Undergraduate Bachelor Degree courses, which offer the broadest and most coherent knowledge and skill base for graduates. Undergraduate courses tend to take the longest, on average lasting three years full-time.

English courses

You can also undertake English courses through VET providers, specially designed for international students. Whether youre preparing for the IELTS test or improving your academic English before commencing university, there are several English courses on offer to suit your needs.

Student life

VET providers offer lots of support services designed to enhance your study experience. From libraries and spacious grounds to counselling and career help (think resume writing and job interview preparation), youll be well supported during your time in Australia.

Its also common for VET providers to have international student support services available to help resolve any problems specific to you, so know that there will always be a friendly face nearby to help you during your studies.