Many Graduates Not Enough Jobs Profits And Clinical Need
What if you have spent years studying for a rigorous degree program and then graduates with no job opportunities in your field? Public universities are now allow to decide how many students they enrol in bachelor’s level courses. These universities receive commonwealth funding, also known as the demand-driven system.
This legislative change has been implement by many universities to increase student numbers. La Trobe University is one example. It aims to increase its student numbers by 30% between 2013 and 2017. Some professions, especially in the health sector, talk about an oversupply. How can we tell if there is an oversupply of qualified graduates? Are universities profiteering from this oversupply?
An Increasing Graduates Number
Two excellent examples of disciplines that have seen an increase in graduates under the new system are dentistry and speech pathology.
Both fields have seen an increase in their numbers due to the availability of courses and lower entry requirements. All over the country, speech pathology courses are being offer. There will be seven new courses on the east coast of Australia from 2011 to 2014. Before that, there were ten.
Three courses are now offering training for approximately 230 speech pathologists each year in Melbourne. However, there have not been many job openings in Victoria after this explosion of speech pathologists. From our most recent cohorts of Victoria graduates, we know that some people have had difficulty finding work.
With more courses available, this situation will only get worse. Australia is expect to train more than 1,000 speech pathologists each year at the current pace, with most of them hoping to get into the workforce after graduation. Some graduates have decided to go into private practice, where it may be more difficult to obtain continuing professional education.
The Australian Dental Association has been calling for a limit on the number of dental students. The ADA anticipates that around 580 students will graduate in Australia this year, while only 250 graduates go on to the workforce each year.
Do You Have A Clinical Need?
This expansion is clearly being driven by universities, which are capitalising on the desire of students to pursue more vocational courses that promise a high-paying job.
However, can we just judge an oversupply based on the workforce numbers? Many people argue that these services are still needed. Professors Peter Brookes of Australia and Mike Morgan from the University of Michigan suggested that an increase number in dental graduates could be a response to the real need for more dental services in the community.
It is possible to argue that more speech pathology services would be beneficial for the community, with an estimate of about 5% of Australians having a communication or swallowing impairment at any given time.
Over one million Australians need the services of a speech therapist. One in five Australians will require the services of a speech pathologist during their lifetime. The demand for clinical services will increase with an aging population. Australia has approximately 7,500 clinicians. However, not all are practicing clinicians. Many others work part-time.
This makes a positive ratio of one speech pathologist for every 150 people who need their services. This is a poor number if society aims to reduce the social and health costs of communication disability.
These fears are being echoled in the United Kingdom, where cuts to speech therapy have led to longer waiting times for essential services.
Losers And Winners Graduates
There are many problems that the industry and similar industries may face due to recent expansions in speech pathology programs. The other issue is the oversupply in qualified clinicians looking for employment.
The second is about the quality of new graduates. The quality of education received and the required entry scores to enroll in courses can affect the standard of graduates. The entry requirements for courses that are popular tend to be higher if there are fewer places available. If places are easy to find, the opposite is true.
These issues are magnified in the case of speech therapy because there is no legal requirement that clinicians register with any board of health professionals. The National Registration and Accreditation System (NRAS), which applies to most health professions, including medical (physicians), allied health (physiotherapists), and complementary therapies (osteopathy) is a requirement for accreditation.
The NRAS views its primary function as protecting the public from misconduct in the health profession. Individuals can practice in many places without being registered or accredited because there is no formal regulation.
Limitation Of Numbers Graduates
Higher student numbers will bring increased revenue to universities, which are the ones who train the new graduates. Universities might argue that they are not responsible for regulating graduate numbers based upon job opportunities in the health sector. In the case of medicine, the government has resisted the idea of limiting student numbers, except for those who are qualified to train in hospitals.
This could also be true for any profession that is health-related, where clinical placements are an integral part of training.
The best opportunities for employment may be available to students, so they might end up choosing the courses and universities that are most appealing. They can limit the number of graduates by choosing courses that maximize their opportunities for employment.