On Wednesday 31 May 2017, the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, referred to the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training (the Committee) an inquiry into how students are supported from school to work.
The Terms of Reference are set out in the front pages of this report.
The Committee called for submissions from interested individuals and organisations.
The Committee accepted and considered 80 submissions and seven supplementary submissions. Full details of submitters can be found at Appendix A.
The Committee held the following public hearings:
4 September 2017, Canberra;
18 September 2017, Melbourne;
19 September 2017, Sydney;
16 October 2017, Canberra; and
9 November 2017, Brisbane.
Full details of the public hearings can be found at Appendix B.
The Committee would like to extend its thanks to all submitters and witnesses who provided evidence to this inquiry.
Structure of the report
This report’s structure reflects the inquiry’s Terms of Reference:
Chapter 2 looks at teachers and teaching, including the importance of ongoing teacher education;
Chapter 3 explains and discusses ‘measurements of gain’ in schools, the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), alternatives to NAPLAN and ATAR, and addresses ‘soft skills’;
Chapter 4 considers government programs designed to support young people to gain the skills and work experience they need to get and keep a job, the transition to Vocational Education and Training (VET) and University and apprenticeships and traineeships; and
Chapter 5 outlines the particular issues facing students with a disability.
Innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy
On 19 June 2017, the Committee tabled its report Innovation and creativity: Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy. This report made recommendations on many of the issues that the Committee received as evidence during this inquiry such as:
Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM);
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM);
Mathematics as a pre-requisite for university;
Vocational Education and Training (VET); and
Work Integrated Learning.
Where appropriate this report will refer to the recommendations made in the above report.
The following section looks at the main Australian Government agreements, programs, studies and research that form the background to this inquiry. A fuller list and outline of Australian Government programs was provided to the Committee by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training and the Australian Government Department of Employment in their submission to the Committee.
Australian Government agreements and programs
National partnership agreement on youth attainment and transitions
The National partnership agreement on youth attainment and transitions (‘the Agreement’) is an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the States and Territories of Australia signed on 2 July 2009.
The objectives of the agreement are to:
work towards achieving improvements in high level outcomes for schooling agreed by COAG in the National Education Agreement and in the 2008 National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians;
work towards increasing the qualifications and skill level of the Australian population as agreed by COAG in the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development;
achieve improvements in the numbers of young Australians making successful transitions from schooling into further education, training or employment;
work collaboratively with the non-government school, training, business and community sectors to improve the support provided to young Australians to increase educational outcomes, attainment and improve transitions to further education, training or employment, with particular focus on 15 to 24 year olds and young people at risk; and
develop a skilled and work ready indigenous workforce by increasing the educational attainment and engagement of young indigenous Australians.
The Agreement sets out a series of outcomes and performance indicators which are reproduced in the table below.
Table 1.1: Outcomes and Performance Indicators
Increased participation of young people in education and training
Young people make a successful transition from school to further education, training or full-time employment
Increased attainment of young people aged 15-24 including Indigenous youth
Enrolment of full-time equivalent students in Years 11 and 12
15 – 19 year old without a Year 12 certificate and not enrolled in school who are enrolled in a vocational education and training (VET) course at Certificate II level or higher
The proportion of young people engaged 15-24 participating in post-school education, training or employment six months after leaving school
The proportion of young people aged 20-24 who have attained year 12 or equivalent
The proportion of young Indigenous people aged 20-24 who have attained Year 12 or equivalent
Source: National Partnership Agreement on Youth Attainment and Transitions, Clause 16.
The Agreement outlines how the above outcomes would be measured, and how financial arrangements between the Commonwealth, States and Territories to facilitate implementation of the Agreement would be arranged and implemented.
The National partnership on youth attainment and transitions second evaluation report makes the following three broad points:
Participation in education has grown – particularly for school education;
Retention and attainment rates have increased; and,
Transition to work remains a challenge for young people.
In relation to the last point, which is the focus of this inquiry, the report states:
In terms of transitions into the labour market, since 2008 there has been a considerable drop in full-time employment for young people not in full-time education, more so than for the 15–64 year age group. In addition, the proportion of 15–24 year-olds fully engaged in employment, education or training is still not at the same level as pre the Global Financial Crisis, particularly for the 20–24 year age group where it has continued to drop. It is worth noting, though, that transitions for young people are, in general, getting longer. Other research shows that not only have levels of full-time employment decreased for the 20–24-year age group, but also that other life transitions such as independence (leaving home), home ownership, marriage and parenthood are occurring later.
Quality schools, quality outcomes
Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes is a report produced by Dandolo Partners for the then Department of Education. It outlines the Australian Government’s evidence-based approach to schools’ reform to improve learning outcomes for all Australian students.
Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes sets out evidence-based priority reforms to help support improved outcomes for students and schools by focusing efforts towards the following five areas:
boosting literacy, numeracy and STEM performance;
improving the quality of teaching and school leadership;
preparing our students for a globalised world;
focusing on what matters most and those who need it most; and
increasing public accountability through improved transparency.
The Government will be working with states, territories and non-government education authorities to focus on how to use the record levels of funding to improve the quality of education in schools and lift student outcomes. For example in May 2016, the Australian Government committed $3 million to improving career advice by working with industry and schools to develop a new National Career Education Strategy.
…will aim to ensure students are 'work ready', prepared for life beyond school and equipped with the 21st century skills needed for the jobs of today and into the future.
Young people's school education must set them up with the skills, knowledge and attitudes they need to succeed in the workplace. Career education is student−centred and an important element in preparing young people to successfully transition from school to further education, training or employment or a combination of these, and should be a priority in schools, from primary through to senior secondary school.
Youth Jobs PaTH
Youth Jobs PaTH is a program designed and run by the Australian Government Department of Education to support young people to gain the skills and work experience they need to get and keep a job. It also supports employers to host internship placements and provides them with incentives when they hire a young person. Youth Jobs PaTH has three elements: Prepare – Trial – Hire.
Prepare helps young people (those under 25) become job ready by providing intensive pre-employment training:
Employability Skills Training (EST) gives young people the opportunity to enhance their employability through two different blocks of targeted training. Participating in training will help young people understand the expectations of employers in both the recruitment process and as a new employee in the workplace.
There are a number of training block courses that assist young people to become job ready:
Training 1 courses will equip young people with pre-employment skills and prepare them to meet the expectations of employers. Training 2 courses will focus on job preparation and will equip young people with advanced job hunting skills, career development, interview skills and the opportunity to participate in Industry Awareness Experiences. These experiences will provide job seekers with an insight into the tasks and duties of different industries. Young people can do one or both of the courses. Each block is 75 hours of face-to-face training over three weeks.
The training is not regulated or accredited under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and nor does it lead to any qualification recognised under the AQF.
Trial provides young people with voluntary internship opportunities to help them gain real work experience in Australian businesses:
Employers can trial a young person in an internship for between 4 and 12 weeks to see how they fit into the team and if they are suitable for ongoing employment. Interns are unpaid by the business and receive a fortnightly incentive paid by the government.
The business receives an upfront payment of $1,000 in recognition of the costs of hosting the internship. Additionally, the intern is covered by insurance paid by the Government through the Department of Employment.
Hire provides a financial incentive of up to $10,000 (GST inclusive) paid over six months to employers who hire eligible young job seekers. As part of Hire, the new Youth Bonus wage subsidy became available from 1 January 2017 for employers who hire eligible job seekers 15 to 24 years of age. In addition all wage subsidies were made simpler to access and manage. Wage subsidies can be packaged with Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Programme payments, to further encourage employers to create apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities.
Higher education participation and partnerships
The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) aims to ensure that Australians from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds who have the ability to study at university have the opportunity to do so. Reforms to (HEPPP) provided for in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 Budgets are outlined below.
HEPPP Reforms - 2016-17 Budget
In the 2016-17 Budget the Government announced it would ‘achieve efficiencies of $152.2 million over four years from 2016‑17 from the Higher Education Participation Program’ to fund budget repair, the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and the International Education Strategy. It went on to say that it would ‘continue to provide $553.2 million under the Program’.
HEPPP Reforms - 2017-18 Budget
From 1 January 2018, the Government reformed HEPPP into two components—the Access and Participation Fund and the National Priorities Pool. The Participation and Partnership components of HEPPP will be combined to form the Access and Participation Fund, with universities required to allocate a minimum amount of funding to partnership activities.
Funding from the Access and Participation Fund to be provided in two streams:
a legislated loading of $985 (indexed) per low SES student will be introduced to provide funding that is certain, calibrated to university need and able to facilitate longer term planning and projects, and
performance funding ($13.3 million per year indexed) for universities that improve their average success rates for low SES or Indigenous students.
The National Priorities Pool will have an allocation of $9.5 million per year (indexed) and the Government intends it to have a greater focus on rigorous evaluative research and encourage outreach collaboration between universities.
The reforms are intended to increase accountability through better development of a HEPPP evaluation framework and streamlining administrative and reporting requirements.
Core skills for work developmental framework
The Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework (CSfW) describes the core non-technical skills that have been identified by Australian employers as important for successful participation in work.
The CSfW can be used in a number of ways. For example:
Educators, trainers and those who work with job seekers can use the framework to develop a common language and understanding about the skills and knowledge employers are looking for, and assist people looking for work to clearly describe their strengths, as well as areas for improvement.
Educators, trainers and those who work with job seekers can use the framework to develop resources and programmes that support people to develop the skills and knowledge that employers want.
Preparing secondary students for work
Preparing Secondary Students for Work is a document by the Educational Council that sets out a framework for vocational learning and vocational education and training (VET) delivered to secondary students. It addresses issues that the Committee has been interested in in a number of its previous inquiries as well as this inquiry.
The framework is a theoretical and policy document that outlines its main findings under the following headings:
The information is presented in a clear and concise way and it is worth setting out the key points made under these headings in full:
Clarity of terminology, purpose and expectations for vocational learning and VET delivered to secondary students requires that:
schools, school systems, employers and RTOs incorporate the distinction between vocational learning and VET into what they do and how they communicate
schools, school systems, employers and RTOs recognise the different purpose of work experience and structured work placements, and the different outcomes expected from them.
Collaboration is most effective in supporting vocational learning and VET delivered to secondary students when:
schools create opportunities for student engagement with employers;
schools, school systems, RTOsand employers understand the benefits of collaborating and seek opportunities to do so;
consultation is an integral part of national, state and territory policy development processes;
consultation on changes to the VET system includes schools and school systems; and
school systems, VET regulators, training package developers and other stakeholders collaborate to resolve issues at the intersections between policies.
Confidence in vocational learning and VET delivered to secondary students is greater when:
students and parents have accurate, up-to-date, impartial and student-friendly information about vocational learning, VET and school-based apprenticeships and traineeships;
teachers and career advisers have opportunities to update their knowledge of current workplaces and practices;
employers have opportunities to be involved in the design, delivery and assessment of vocational learning and VET;
mechanisms exist to engage with employers and industry to determine which VET qualifications are appropriate to deliver to secondary students and in what circumstances;
RTOs give school students and parents accurate information about individual VET qualifications, including benefits, costs and future implications;
schools, employers and RTOs collaborate to ensure streamlined arrangements for individual school-based apprentices and trainees;
schools, employers and RTOs promote the benefits of school-based apprenticeships and traineeships to students and parents
employers are involved in the provision of work placement opportunities.
Core systems improve vocational learning and VET delivered to secondary students when:
school systems support schools with advice on the different ways they can make VET available to their students;
governments, working with training package developers, require training packages to provide clear guidance about whether the package is suitable for school-age students (including any preconditions); what settings are suitable for delivery (and any special requirements); what settings are suitable for assessment (and any special requirements); and what are the requirements for structured work placements;
schools coordinate work experience and structured work placement opportunities, and offer the VET courses that students and employers need;
policies provide a supportive environment that minimises costs and red tape, and facilitates innovation and local flexibility
short-, medium- and long-term measures of success recognise the many purposes of VET delivered to secondary students, and are based on standards similar to the measures of success for non-VET subjects in secondary schooling.
Skilling Australians fund
In the course of this inquiry the Committee received evidence on apprenticeships and traineeships and it notes that the Skilling Australians Fund is a commitment by the Australian Government to ongoing funding for vocational education and training.
The Australian Government Department of Education and Training and the Department of Employment’s submission points to the fact that apprenticeships and traineeships are a priority for the fund:
The Skilling Australians Fund, announced at the 2017−18 Budget, will build the skills for the workforce of the future by prioritising training for apprenticeships and traineeships in occupations in high demand with future growth potential, including in regional Australia.
The Australian Government estimates that:
… $1.5 billion will be available for the ongoing Fund from 2017–18 to 2020–21. With matched funding from states and territories, this will support up to 300,000 apprenticeships, traineeships, pre-apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships.
From 2018-19, revenue for the Fund will be determined by the ‘training fund contribution levy’, which in turn is determined by the quantity of certain types of skilled work visas. Accordingly, the amount of $1.5 billion can only be an estimate, and is subject to significant change, if the number of visas changes. That is to say, the exact amount that will be included in the fund cannot be predicted with certainty.
The establishment of this fund should also be considered against the context of the Government’s cuts of more than $2.8 billion from TAFE, skills and training since coming to office.
Studies, research and reports
The following section lists some key reports and studies that informed the Committee’s deliberations. The list is not exhaustive and separate reports dealing with specific issues are dealt with in their respective chapters.
The new work smarts: thriving in the new work order
The Foundation for Young Australians’ (FYA) report The New Work Smarts: Thriving in the New Work Order is the fifth instalment of the FYA’s New Work Order research series which has explored the ways in which automation, globalisation and flexibility are changing the way Australians work, and the implications of these shifts for young Australians.
The report’s stated aim is as follows:
Through identifying the skills that will be in most demand across the economy in 2030, this report seeks to increase the match between the skills workers possess and the skills they will need.
The issues addressed in the report and the context in which it was written – that of a changing work environment – were central to the inquiry. The inquiry was concerned with the education system and the report makes a strong case for the way in which progressive education systems must work in the future:
Around the world, the most progressive education systems are focusing on developing the ‘new work smart’ workforce of the future. They offer immersive, project based and real-world learning experiences that go beyond the classroom environment, such as working with local businesses or facilitating art and film projects in local communities. These learning experiences are best suited to developing the future-proof enterprising and career management skills that will be most in demand and most highly portable in the future of work, and instil in young people the enthusiasm for ongoing learning that will be critical for their future success.
International assessment of adult competencies
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development measures adult skills and competencies through the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey.
The adult skills and competencies measured include:
numeracy and problem solving skills, with a particular focus on skills used at work;
computer and ‘information age’ skills; and,
drivers of low literacy performance.
The Country Note – Survey of Adult Skills first results on Australia lists the following key issues:
Adults (aged 16-65) in Australia show above-average proficiency in literacy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments compared with adults in the other countries participating in the survey, but only show average proficiency in numeracy.
Foreign-language immigrants in Australia have lower levels of literacy proficiency than the native-born and native-language Australians, although the difference observed is amongst the lowest across the participating countries.
The link between higher literacy and such social outcomes as trust in others, participation in volunteer and associative activities, belief that an individual can have an impact on the political process, and better health is stronger in Australia than in most other countries.
Australia shows a good match between the literacy proficiency of workers and the demands of their jobs.
Understanding how Gen Z transition into further education and employment
Year13, Australia’s largest digital platform for high-school leavers, conducted research into how young people are feeling about the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), parents and career advisors, employment, higher education and VET.
Year13’s surveys saw over 7,300 responses and the results were compiled in the research paper ‘After the ATAR: Understanding How Gen Z Transition into Further Education and Employment’, released on July 27, 2017. The Committee accepted this report as Exhibit One.
The ‘key takeaways’ of the report were as follows:
55 per cent of students think their school cares more about their ATAR then (sic) them as students;
89 per cent of students use their phone during class;
51 per cent of youth identify a need to see a mental health professional;
49 per cent don’t feel threatened at all by automation;
39 per cent don’t see apprenticeships and degrees as equal; and,
62 per cent of university students have considered dropping out.
The above reports, coupled with submissions received and evidence taken at hearings, informed the Committee during its deliberations and in preparation of this final report.