Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001

Students with low academic results, from English speaking backgrounds, living in rural areas, attending Government schools and who do not have tertiary educated parents, are most likely to take up VET in Schools subjects, according to a study released today by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

The term VET in Schools refers to vocational programs that comply with the National Training Framework and which also form part of a senior secondary certificate. It includes programs incorporating structured workplace learning as well as a number of school-based vocational programs.

Vet in schools: participation and pathways, by ACER’s Senior Research Fellow, Dr Sue Fullarton, analyses the levels of participation in VET in Schools, the characteristics of the young people who take VET programs, and their work and study activities after leaving Year 12.

The results are based on data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) research program, which is jointly managed by ACER and the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST).

This study follows the experiences of a national cohort of 13 613 students as they move from school into post-compulsory education, training and work. It focuses on students who were in Year 9 in 1995 and who completed Year 12 in 1998. It examines their experiences up to 2000 and is the most up-to-date and detailed information on recent school leavers in Australia.

Dr Fullarton indicated that there is a great variety around Australia both in the nature and extent of VET programs that are offered to students and the extent to which students are able to access these programs.

"Nationally, almost one-quarter of the student cohort participated in some form of VET while at school. Fifteen per cent had undertaken some VET in Schools subjects at either Year 11 or Year 12, seven percent had completed subjects in both year 11 and year 12, and more than one per cent had participated in a school-based new apprenticeship or traineeship," Dr Fullarton said.

Participation in VET in Schools varies considerably according to early achievement, socioeconomic status, type of school attended and ethnic background. The report found that:

  • Participation rates were highest among those students in the lowest achievement quartile, (37 percent), compared to those students in the highest achievement quartile (14 percent);
  • Participation rates were lower among those students whose family background is from a non-English speaking country (18 percent) as compared to those from Australia-born parents (24 percent);
  • Of the students whose parents had only completed secondary school, 25 per cent participated in VET, compared to 14 per cent of those with tertiary educated parents. Similarly, of those students whose parents were in professional occupations, 15 per cent participated in VET, compared to 27 per cent of those whose parents were employed in manual occupations;
  • Participation rates were slightly higher in rural areas (26 percent) than in metropolitan areas (21 percent);
  • The highest level of participation in VET was found in Queensland (41 per cent) and the lowest level in Victoria (12 percent). South Australia had a 18 per cent participation, New South Wales 21 per cent and Western Australia 29 per cent.
  • Students from non-Catholic independent schools were less likely to participate in VET in Schools than those in government schools (14 per cent compared to 26 per cent in government schools);
  • Participation rates were higher among those with lower levels of engagement and satisfaction with school; and
  • There were no gender differences found in the level of participation, however there were gender differences in the types of vocational subjects studied by males and females.

Although there is some evidence that VET in Schools is associated with a pathway either into a recognised form of post-secondary vocational education or training or work, the unemployment rates were similar for the VET in Schools group and for the non-VET in Schools group. Also, participation in VET in Schools appears more likely to be a pathway to the labour force than to further education and training, more so for males than females.

Dr Fullarton said the results of the study underline the importance of monitoring participation and outcomes of participation in VET in Schools.

"VET in Schools is still in its infancy. It is also perhaps the most substantial change that has occurred in post-compulsory study over the last decade. Offering students a range of options and pathways in their post-compulsory schooling suited to differing interests and needs of young people encourages a higher proportion to remain in education and training," Dr Fullarton said.

Fullarton, S. (2001). VET in Schools: Participation and Pathways, LSAY Research Report 21, Melbourne: ACER.