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New generation survey Australian career pathways

Research 7 minute read

First insights from a new longitudinal survey following the journey of young Australians as they transition to life beyond school show significant gender segregation in our education sector. 

The 10-year study, known as GENERATION, commenced in 2022 with a nationally representative sample of 16,000 year 10 students from 295 Australian schools. These students will be surveyed annually until they are about 25 years old on topics such as their background, career and educational plans, experiences within and outside school, and social and emotional skills. 

The GENERATION study is conducted by Australian National University (ANU), the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and the Social Research Centre (SRC) on behalf of the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment.  

Representatives from ANU, ACER and SRC presented research on the development and implementation of GENERATION at the European Survey Research Association conference in Italy in July.  

The first wave was a school-based survey implemented between May and November 2022 by a school coordinator from participating schools.  

All young people aged 15-16 years from participating schools were invited to complete a 30-minute online survey. Each school coordinator also completed a survey focused on school policies and services designed to address learning losses from the pandemic and address education equity. 

Each student received a report containing an interest profile and some suggestions for future career paths that align with their interests. Participating schools also received a report summarising their students’ responses.

Findings from Wave 1 

Results published on the GENERATION website earlier this year attest to the high degree of gender segregation in the Australian education sector. 

Occupational aspirations 

Year 10 students were asked: ‘What kind of job or occupation do you expect to have when you are about 30 years old?’ The most popular occupational categories fall under the broad category of ‘Professionals’. More than 50% of year 10 students expected to enter a professional occupation. 

The most popular occupation for females was ‘Health Professionals’, while ‘Design, Engineering, Science and Transportation’ was more popular among males and non-binary students. These professions align with current skilled shortages in the Australian economy and the most in demand jobs for skilled migration to Australia. 

Study and training 

GENERATION asked students about their educational plans immediately after leaving school and longer term into the future. The most popular option, selected by 72% of students, was university study. This option was more popular among females (79%) than among males (65%) and non-binary students (70%).  

Vocational pathways were more popular among males (30%) and non-binary students (22%) than among females (16%). A higher proportion of non-binary students (8%) reported no plans to study after school compared to males (6%) and females (5%). 

GENERATION also asked students: ‘What do you think your parents or caregivers want you to do after you leave school?’ More than 90% of students planning to attend university thought their parents wanted them to do this. Among those who wanted to pursue a vocational pathway, more males (65%) than females (47%) or non-binary students (48%) thought their parents agreed. 

Educational progress 

Students were asked to report on the disruption to their education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. About half (52%) reported that their Year 9 learning suffered as a result of the disruption, 59% said they did not feel prepared for school in 2022 and 22% reported they have fallen behind their peers as a result of the pandemic. 

Students living in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, where there were high levels of school closures, more frequently reported that their progress suffered and they had fallen behind their peers. The proportion of students from these states who felt prepared for the school year and had caught up on learning missed was lower than in other states. 

Students who had at least one parent with a university degree were less likely to report falling behind their peers, while students who had a disability were more likely to report falling behind. 

Relationships and wellbeing 

Using an open-ended question, GENERATION asked students to report on the best aspects of their year 10 study. The most frequently mentioned word was ‘friends’, mentioned by 815 students, followed by ‘subjects’ (420), ‘learning’ (360) and ‘teachers’ (257). 

There were some gender differences in the top ten keywords. Around twice as many females than males mentioned ‘friends’ and ‘learning’, while more males mentioned ‘work’ and ‘sports’. For non-binary students, ‘art’ was a prominent aspect which did not score as high among males and females. 

Identity and belonging 

GENERATION asked students about the extracurricular activities, which they participated in after school. Three-quarters of young people reported that they engaged in at least one extracurricular activity in the past 12 months. 

Youth were most commonly participating in team sports (44%), followed by individual sports (26%); and arts, music or performance lessons (22%). Fewer than 10% of youth regularly participated in community groups, religious services or classes, or debating or chess clubs.

Looking ahead 

This landmark study aims to reflect the collective experience of young Australians – inside and outside school – while providing both participants and educators valuable insights into career interests and post-school plans. The GENERATION survey cohort has already completed the Australian Early Development Census, creating opportunities for future data linkages. 

Students are currently being surveyed for wave 2 of the longitudinal study. Survey questions focus on what students have been doing in year 11 and whether their post-school plans have changed. 

The future success of GENERATION is dependent on retaining participants across the full duration of the study. Post-survey youth advisory groups are providing important insights about what can be done to reduce attrition.  

Find out more:
Visit the GENERATION website

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