Australian government schemes
The Committee received evidence about Youth Jobs PaTH known as PaTH (Prepare − Trial − Hire). The policy intent and program of PaTH is outlined in chapter one. The following section looks at some of the evidence received on PaTH.
The Australian Government ‘introduced the $763 million Youth Jobs PaTH as part of the Youth Employment Package in the 2016−17 Budget.’
The Department of Education and Training and Department of Employment’s joint submission shows that:
As at 25 July 2017, 1,790 unique Internship vacancies have been advertised via the jobactive website. 979 internship placements have commenced of which 515 were still active. While the program is still bedding down following its implementation, the program is showing early signs of success with 188 young people gaining employment as a result of the program.
Of the 464 (979 minus 515) ended internships:
80 per cent (188) gained employment (179 with the host business and 9 found other employment); and
20 per cent (46) completed the internship without gaining employment.
183 were ended early without employment; of which
59 per cent (108) were ended early by interns; and
41 per cent (75) were ended early by businesses.
47 were ended pending the outcome of the Internship.
A majority of “interns” gaining employment were employed in ‘Accommodation and Food Services’ (58), ‘Other Services’ (27) and ‘Retail Trade’ (44).
The Committee was interested in finding out if these roles were full time or casual. The Department of Employment stated that it:
…does not yet have information on the tenure of employment for people who complete an internship and are offered employment.
The Departments also told the Committee that PaTH will be evaluated:
The evaluation will be conducted over two stages to capture early results, as well as available evidence on outcomes as the program operates over time. Work on an interim evaluation is expected to be completed by December 2018, with insights gained helping to inform policy and program improvement. This will be followed by work on a final evaluation to be completed by the end of 2019. The final evaluation will assess the effectiveness and appropriateness of the Youth Jobs PaTH program. … Both stages of the evaluation will complement program monitoring and assurance activities, drawing on administrative data, quantitative surveys and in-depth interviews and focus groups. This will include capturing employer and participant perspectives on why placements may have ended early.
Ms Benedikte Jensen, Group Manager, Labour Market Strategy Group, Department of Education and Training, explained to the Committee that Youth Jobs PaTH’s employability skills training is focussed on addressing the core skills, including soft skills, which employers ask for.
According to Ms Jenny Lambert, Director, Employment Education and Training, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
[T]he benefit of PaTH is that it gives an opportunity for both sides to actually ask: 'Is this the right fit for the young person? Is it the right type of job that they like to do? Are the peers that they're going to work with and the employer that they're going to work for the right fit for them?' Similarly, it gives the host business an opportunity to try that out.
Additionally, Ms Lambert explained that the program offers employers the opportunity to see whether having an extra employee will be worthwhile for them. The program means that the benefit of an extra staff member can be demonstrated to an employer within their business on a day to day basis.
In discussing the level of subsidy employers using PaTH are able to access, Ms Lambert explained to the Committee the way in which the subsidies work:
The subsidies are almost the third base. If you've engaged with the system and you think these jobseekers are worth considering, the wage subsidy is a third-level issue, if you like. You've got to get through the first two bases first. I think subsidies can make a difference. The $10,000 does seem to be a bit of a trigger point to actually get them to proactively seek out the system.
Ms Lambert also explained that subsidies are important because they engender a change of behaviour by employers who would otherwise not proactively engage with the system. She also noted that ‘[S]ubsidies and incentives alone are not going to do it; you still have to find the suitable people’.
Whilst supportive of PaTH, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) believe that there are ‘significant areas that still need to be addressed in the program in order to make it more successful’. ACCI suggested:
Training opportunities must be directly connected to the placement opportunities. Job seekers should not attend a training program unless internships have already been lined up.
Training providers should be incentivised to place the attendees of the training program into work, internship or work experience.
Employment service providers need to be active in filling hosted opportunities posted independently on the system to encourage further engagement of employers with the Jobactive system.
The Australian Services Union was critical of the program, saying:
… we want to try to make someone's first job something that not only has dignity but also is a good experience. I understand that the study produced by the Young Workers Centre this year found that there are low levels of knowledge about the minimum wage, payslips and the information that they should contain, and the fact that there are implications around working cash in hand. So we want to try to get people into their first role with some dignity—that's definitely not happening with the $4-pathway-type policy at the moment—and, when they are employed, knowing what their basic rights are.
One of the main ways that students will receive information on post-school education and training is through career advisors. Career advisors are:
…qualified secondary teachers who have undertaken an approved course of study in careers education. They provide information, guidance and advice to help students explore their education and career options, create a resume, search for jobs, apply for jobs and/or apply for further study. Careers advisers liaise with parents, teachers, employers, community agencies and training providers.
The University of Wollongong (UOW) highlighted the importance of quality career advisors who:
… can motivate students toward successful further education, training or employment and enables them to make well informed career decisions. It gives them invaluable insights into the world of work and what education and training paths they need to undertake to achieve their career goals.
The National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) provided evidence on the disconnect between the need for career advice and the amount of such advice provided. It stated:
Considering that we, as a community, spend around 13 years educating our youth to be an active part of the community by finding a job but only spend approximately one to six weeks collectively in that period on informing them of what is available for career choice towards the end of their schooling. There is a clear disconnect between providing suitable and appropriate career advice and making sure students are job-ready upon leaving school. Most of the information provided is on standard trade courses such as Hair Dressing, Childcare, Plumbing, and Electrical and so on. But that is merely scraping the surface on the wide range of career possibilities available for students to pursue.
The NRMA also suggests a need for VET advisors (mentors) to go to schools or support career advisors to:
…present in an accessible form how the VET sector works and the relationships with training.gov.au and Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and gaining the right qualification for their career.
The University of New England added:
Students in schools that provide qualified and well-resourced careers teachers have significantly better prospects. Work experience and mentoring are proven strategies. Unfortunately, the latest research shows investment by schools in career resourcing is in decline, with 1 in 4 careers teachers having had their time allocation decrease in the last 3 years.
Year13 informed the Committee about the kind of enhancements to their roles that career advisors would like to be able to implement or take part in:
Career advisors have stated that they would like to enhance their roles through: additional time to spend with students (77%), greater contact with employers/industry (68%), networking with other career professionals (64%), additional time with staff to develop integrated career curriculum (62%), other professional training and/or development (57%).
The survey showed that:
Despite the fact that most students believe having a career advisor is beneficial and helps in preparing them for the transition from school, many indicated that more one-on-one time with a career advisor and more personalised advice was necessary, and that career advisors needed to have an understanding of a more diverse range of options in order to cater for every student effectively.
Year13’s conclusion is concerning:
With such limited time, funding, and with 52% of career advisors working part-time it is no wonder that, according to Year13’s research, only 26% of young people turn to them for career advice.
Youth Off the Streets, a non-denominational organisation supporting young people (aged 12-25) facing homelessness, substance dependency, abuse and other issues is critical of a perceived under resourcing of career advisors and point out the lack of such specialised roles in disadvantaged schools:
Education professionals and governments rarely view the inclusion of job-readiness programs in school curricula as a priority for students seeking to transition to the workforce. In addition, most teachers, School Careers Advisors and Transition Officers are under-resourced and time-poor, making an emphasis on employment transition problematic. Many disadvantaged schools do not have people filling these specialised roles.
Ms Jenny Lambert, Director, Employment Education and Training, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, informed the Committee that:
There are a lot of opportunities in the apprenticeships and traineeships areas, particularly in traineeships, with the increase in servicing and health areas, where traineeships are so important. We certainly need to be very conscious of providing people with career advice and guidance.
Ms Lambert suggested that there are other people in the system who could act as career advisors:
… if you think of most principals, they go from school to university themselves and then into school and rise up through the ranks. Their interaction with industry is usually very limited. The interaction with schools is quite often through the P&C [Parents & Citizens] raising money through the local raffles or trivia nights or whatever. So principals need to have better skills to reach out to industry. I think that would be a really important mechanism, getting the school leadership more comfortable with that relationship—what it can deliver to students and why it's important to students.
The University of New England pointed to a gap in career advisors (referred to as careers teachers) once students leave school:
While school based careers teachers provide assistance for students who are still at school, once they leave there is really nothing in the way of professional quality career advice and support available. ‘Getting a job’ is not a single event. In the current economic climate, many jobs are part time, casual, short-term, and downsizing and retrenchments are common. It takes longer for young people to find a job, and they can expect to regularly experience periods where they are unemployed or underemployed. Career transitions can happen at any time, so access to quality career support throughout life would be a great support.
Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE) echo the above and add gender issues to the mix of knowledge a career advisor must have:
Careers practitioners in schools need to be qualified, meet Career Industry Council of Australia (CICA) professional standards, be fully conversant with labour market trends and issues (including gender issues), and update their skills and knowledge regularly.
Properly trained and resourced career advisors are an important way to inform and support students, and their parents, on post-school education and employment opportunities.
Despite the employment opportunities available via the VET pathway, the Committee received evidence that Australia’s current education system is very much geared to a transition to university.
Transitioning to university
An education system geared to university
A recurring theme in evidence to the Committee outlined below was that Australia’s education system has focussed on preparing students for university to the detriment of vocational skills. Associate Professor Ruth Schubert, Associate Director, LH Martin Institute, University of Melbourne, explained this phenomenon to the Committee:
We've put so much effort in Australia into increasing the numbers in higher education that we're getting what we've tried to achieve and we haven't focused on higher vocational education. The emerging jobs around the world are in higher technical vocational education, not necessarily in degree based education. We shouldn't beat ourselves up. We've actually achieved what we set out to do. We've focused on economic skills—literacy and numeracy, the traditional skills. We haven't focused on the other skills. We are paying the price in that sense because we don't have a tertiary system that gives equal weight to the higher technical vocational skills, where other systems around the world have put their effort. We've got too many people going into degree based qualifications when they perhaps don't necessarily need to be yet. We've created many problems here with our system. We're not very efficient or effective.
Professor Richard James, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Undergraduate and Academic), and Deputy Provost, University of Melbourne, sees this focus on academia as result of the demand driven higher education system which he states has:
…opened up a chasm between vocational education and training and higher education. It's an unfortunate consequence of an otherwise desirable demand-driven system for universities. That chasm in status means that most young people will aspire to going to university, and maybe that's not a bad thing for some; it's possibly a bad thing for others. The chasm has also become, rather awkwardly, a kind of pedagogical chasm as well or a difference in pedagogical beliefs and culture—one that's primarily typically academic and holistic in focus, as the university would argue, in a largely competency based vocational education and training system.
Figure 4.1 below illustrates just how powerful the attraction of university is:
Figure 4.1: Percentage of post school pathway for 2016 students
Source: Department of Education and Training and Department of Employment, Submission 76, p.11.
With this focus on university, those students who do not want to go to university need to be more fully included in the secondary school system. Professor John Polesel, Director, Centre for Vocational and Educational Policy and Associate Dean (International), Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, spoke to the Committee on this issue:
If you look at 100 kids who start year 7, only about 40 of them are going to go to university. Yet, if you go into any of our secondary schools, it's all about the university dream. So I think our schools need to provide real choice and a greater variety of programs. They need to be more inclusive for those young people who are not intending to go to university or just won't get there. I think in many cases providing a more adult and welcoming environment at the upper secondary level is really important, particularly for kids who are disengaged and who don't feel that they are welcome within the highly academic sort of program where they're still being treated as children when they're in year 11 and year 12. So I think we need more diversity in our upper secondary schools and less of an exclusive focus on university entry.
The National Apprentice Employment Network (NAEN) describes an:
inherent bias towards university, given that all providers in the school sector are, themselves, university educated and as a rule of thumb, have little to no exposure to the apprenticeship and traineeship sector, or the broader vocational education and training sector.
The NRMA agrees with this:
the education system continues to be strongly geared towards students completing the HSC and securing an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) to attend university even though a majority of students are likely to pursue straight to work opportunities or vocational educational and training (VET) in their post-school lives.
The Committee took some evidence, though it was not conclusive, that this bias towards university relates to some attrition in university enrolments. According to Professor James, this is something that ‘we need to examine more closely.’
Evidence to the Committee suggests that universities do not have a problem attracting students. Recommending university to all students, regardless of their fit for such a learning environment is a live issue in Australia’s education system.
In relation to VET, the Committee received evidence suggesting that there is a problem with VET’s status as perceived by parents and students who underestimate the employment opportunities stemming from VET. This is discussed below and elsewhere in this report.
Making a successful transition to university
The Committee received evidence about a range of factors that affect students’ ability to successfully transition from school to university.
Professor Richard James, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Undergraduate and Academic), and Deputy Provost, University of Melbourne described the problem:
I would just add that there is plenty of evidence that something is not working here, whether it's rational career advice or whole community consciousness around the rush to higher education. The evidence is in attrition rates in first year. Attrition rates are contested, and people dispute what they mean and so on but, at the same time, think of the great expectation that young people should try to get into university, if they can, and then marry that with the dropout rates that can be between 10, 15, 20 and 25 per cent—and, in one case a couple of years ago, 30 per cent—in first year.
The work that is or could be done in and at schools to prepare students for university life is a factor in the smoothness of the transition. For example, the University of Queensland submitted that students’ expectations could be misaligned with the reality of university, and that they needed to better understand what would be required of them: greater independence and responsibility, and being a self-directed learner. UQ also submitted that program selection [prior to commencement] was important for future success (with frequent program changes being an indicator of attrition).
Ms Patricia Parish, Acting Manager, Careers Service, Western Sydney University, said:
…what we see is a mismatch between their expectations once they arrive at university and what they are actually capable of. They are coming to university and their families don't know the context. They expect a certain career path when they get to university. They are disappointed when they find it is difficult and competitive and just getting to university is not enough.
Not all of the important factors affecting a student’s success (or otherwise) in transitioning to university could be assisted by better preparation while still at school. For example, the University of Queensland submitted that the financial pressure on students affected their ability to transition to university.
The Regional Universities Network, noting the difference in attainment levels between the regions and the cities, cited financial pressure as a factor. Their submission went on to state, in relation to financial pressure:
Our research shows that students at regional universities commonly have complex lives and competing priorities. Many of these students are parents, and many have other caring responsibilities. Many need to engage in paid employment whilst studying and experience significant financial pressure. The cost of study materials and travel to university, on top of the usual expenses of living, including sometimes supporting a family while on a reduced income, mean that students may have to make difficult choices about their priorities that other more traditional students do not need to make. This includes withdrawing from studies. Our research shows significant evidence of a phenomenon that is familiar to those who lead and work in regional universities and that is now increasingly evident in the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training statistics – that regional students dip in and out of study and, on average, take longer than metropolitan students to complete their awards.
Transitioning to vocational education and training
Misconceptions about vocational education and training
In parallel with the bias towards university education, the Committee heard evidence about a lack of knowledge amongst career advisors and parents about the benefits of VET.
Mr James Coward, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Restaurants and Catering Industry Association Australia, states that there is potential for the career advisors to explain the benefits of the VET sector more clearly. He added that the average salary of VET graduates is higher than that of a bachelor degree graduate but that this information is not being promoted adequately or received by students. This lack of information affects post-school choices.
Year13 reported that:
According to a national survey of 1,010 Australians conducted by McCrindle Research, 79% of parents would prefer their children to go to university after school rather than take a VET pathway. Interestingly, in the same survey, 28% felt “the main reason Australians choose university over VET is because university graduates find work more easily.” However, 78% of VET graduates are employed immediately after completion, in contrast to only 39% of 20-25-year-old university graduates. This means that young people’s transitional choices are being negated by a preference that is largely based on biased and incorrect information.
Associate Professor Ruth Schubert, Associate Director, LH Martin Institute, University of Melbourne, pointed out that in some countries, those with higher vocational qualifications are earning more than those with degrees and articulated the educational and employment planning questions that need to be answered:
If you look at Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and China, it is those young people who have higher vocational qualifications who have ended up with good jobs and are actually earning more money than some people with degrees. It obviously depends on the economic mix as well in terms of the country. If you look at the endpoint, what do we want? We want people to have high-wage jobs and we want them to have good jobs. Therefore, we need to think about what sorts of skills they actually need to get those and drive the economy. The two are obviously closely linked.
Pearson and the Independent Schools Association both acknowledged there could be an underrepresentation of people from high socio-economic status backgrounds in vocational education:
Ms BUTLER: Are children from higher socioeconomic status backgrounds underrepresented in vocational education and, if so, is that a problem?
Ms Blackwood: Parental expectation probably has had a lot to play there but having been a principal of a school I have seen students, highly capable students, who could have had access directly into university who have chosen to take a vocational pathway because they know what their particular passions, interests and desires are at that point in time, and have been encouraged to do so by both the school and parents, so it is possible.
Mr Wilson: I think that would be rare. We often quote ICSEA as the advantage. Part of the ICSEA measure is students and parents are taking on university in their current job. It is a self-fulfilling stat that fills itself in because generally if my partner is a PhD and I am a graduate then I would probably expect my daughter to be one, too, but if she wants to go and be a wonderful hairdresser, open a salon, make a heap of money out of that and have a wonderful life, that is good, too. I think that is the conversation that we have to have.
The evidence above suggests university education has been accorded such a high status that this has stopped information on the opportunities that can be accessed through VET being provided to students and their parents/guardians.
Valuing and engaging with VET
The preceding section suggested that VET is not being valued enough and students are not being given an opportunity to properly engage with VET. The Committee received evidence that one way in which the importance of VET can be conveyed is by industry engagement.
SYC, a not-for-profit organisation centred on employment, training and youth services, referring to research undertaken by UK think tank, Education and Employers Taskforce (UK) states that:
… higher volumes of school mediated employer engagement are associated with reduced incidence of NEET by up to 86 per cent.
NAEN’s submission recommended that schools have the following industry engagement mechanisms in place:
Industry presentations to classes exploring different career options, particularly raising the status and perception of vocational education and training;
School councils be forced to have industry representation that can assist in providing a VET lens across all school decision making at a strategy level;
Schools engage with their local vocational education providers to provide integrated strategies for transition during and post school to sustainable employment opportunities;
Labour market information is integrated into professional development for career advisors, and schools are adequately funded to ensure career advisors have access to this training (and it be a mandatory professional development program for career advisors); and
School models be reconsidered, and guidelines put in place, to allow students from year 9 to engage in meaningful VET programs such as school based apprenticeships, in lieu of traditional academic curriculum based subjects (with the exclusion of foundational skills such as LLN).
The NRMA explained that all possible employment opportunities be canvassed when introducing students to VET:
The system is designed to shepherd students to preferred courses such as Certificate II in Construction, or Childcare, etc. which do not pick up the employability skill of what the student actually wants to do. When we have asked potential candidates of why they have completed the course they have, instead of an automotive qualification they say that it wasn’t an option at their school.
The Committee did not specifically request submissions on comparative international education systems and how they deal with the transition from school to work however the Committee did receive evidence about the vocational training approach in Denmark. Box 3.1 explains Denmark’s approach to training and outcomes.
Box 4.1: Denmark’s training approach and outcomes
There are two features of Denmark's skills system that distinguish it from Australia's: its inclusive approach to policy implementation, and its dual system of school-based education.
Denmark's vocational skills system is supported by strong cooperation between 'social partners', where government collaborates with VET providers, industry bodies and trade unions in policy development and implementation. This inclusive approach brings a number of benefits. It means that the major players in the skills sector have a greater investment in the outcomes delivered. It has also been argued that it encourages a more flexible and innovative skills sector, allowing for example apprenticeship training to move into new occupational areas such as Information Technology.
Denmark has a comprehensive model of schooling for all students up until the age of 16, and a dual system for students in the final years of secondary education. At 16, roughly 60 % of students enter the university-oriented stream of Gymnasium, with 20-30 % entering a vocational education and training stream. This differs from the singular, generalist model in Australia, where all students are provided with a comprehensive education through to the end of secondary school. It also differs from other dual systems such as that found in Germany, where a comprehensive approach is taken only in primary schooling, after which students are placed in either university-oriented or vocational-oriented stream. The benefits of Denmark's dual system:
There are clear linkages between the qualifications earned in the vocational stream and employment, enabling effective transition into the labour market;
The division between academic and vocational oriented pathways 'cannot be reduced to a simple hierarchy of status'. Partly due to positive employment outcomes, vocational pathways are highly valued by students, and are therefore defined by their unique attributes rather than by a lower status; and
The existence of a vocational stream does not dampen aspirations for university study, largely because the dual system takes effect only in the upper years of secondary school. Relatedly, there is less of a danger that the system will re-enforce class division, as is arguably the case in Germany, which tracks children at the age of 11.
The University of Melbourne’s supplementary submission noted that:
[T]here are things that can be learnt from the successes of Denmark's approach to skills, but given the considerable systemic differences, there is no straightforward way of importing the 'Danish model' into Australia.
The lessons that can be learned are summed up as follows:
A comparison with Denmark highlights some of the shortcomings in Australia's approach. The vocational content offered in upper secondary schooling is limited, and the boundaries between academic and vocational curricula poorly defined. While maintaining a comprehensive approach through the entirety of secondary schooling appears to offer flexibility for students, the result is that post-secondary vocational education is defined by a lower status.
Vocational education and training in schools
The Australian Government’s framework, Preparing Secondary Students for Work helps to support vocational learning and VET in secondary schools. This is often referred to as Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETIS)
VETIS is one particular area in which students could be given a wide range of information.
The Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) had some strong recommendations to what a school delivering VETIS needed to have:
Every school which seeks to deliver VETIS should have a trained careers advisor on staff. This advisor must be able to give accurate advice to students and parents in regard to all aspects of school to work transition. Such advice would include advising students as to the likelihood of them gaining employment post school based upon their VETIS qualification, what post school level of employment they could expect to obtain because of their VETIS qualification, what post school training they could or could not access with fee help and what post school training they would need to complete in order to obtain employment at their desired level.
The evidence shows that VET can provide prospective job seekers with a qualification that will gain them employment. This employment could be more lucrative and easier to get than employment for those with a university degree.
The inquiry heard of the value of trades training in schools. Ms Susie Boyd, President, Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of New South Wales, said:
We were discussing the trade training centres and the increase, especially in western Sydney, where I am in New South Wales. We have been doing a lot of surveys and so on with teachers, principals, students and parents in the Greater Western Sydney area. People are pushing for trade centres. We do not want to take away from TAFE. We see numbers are completely down, as revealed recently, last week. TAFE numbers are down. But as to trade centres and having actual trades within our own schools— the words are coming back that there is a lot more faith in something that is actually run by the school. With all of the bad seeds that were out there, where children were paying amounts to non-government providers and bombing out.
The National Catholic Education Commission submitted:
The delivery of VET to secondary school students and the training opportunities offered by Trade Training Centres have provided students with better access to post-school pathways and supported a significant cohort of students to transition from school to work. Generally, the cost of delivering or accessing VET is much higher than the delivery of other parts of the school curriculum. Current Commonwealth funding has not made provision for this higher cost. In the past, the Australian Technical Colleges, developed by the Howard Government, provided a recurrent funding model that enabled schools to ensure that facilities, trainers and the subsequent training provided met and kept pace with industry requirements and trends.
In addition to VET, apprenticeships and traineeships provide another pathway for students to enter employment.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
Apprenticeships and traineeships are an important way in which young people who do not wish to go to university are able to transition into the workforce.
Apprenticeships and traineeships are systemised training programs by which people are able to become qualified in a trade or particular type of job. They offer benefits, including:
the ability to work and earn money while studying the qualification;
a nationally recognised qualification on completion of training;
a mix of off-job learning (in a classroom, online, or at an employer’s premises) and on-job learning (in the workplace); and,
An apprenticeship is where an apprentice learns a skilled trade under a qualified tradesperson and a traineeship is where a trainee learns a job (or vocation) under a supervisor.
The evidence the Committee received on apprenticeships and traineeships was not voluminous and focussed on two main areas:
The fall in uptake of apprenticeships and traineeships; and,
The opportunity to provide better information on apprenticeships and traineeships.
Ms Kelly Fisher, Branch Manager, VET Market Information, Department of Education and Training told the Committee that, between 2012 and 2016, the fall in trade apprenticeships was just over 95,000 to 72,500.
For traineeships, sometimes called non-trade apprenticeships, the decline was much greater being a fall from 235,000 to 94,000. Figure 3.2 illustrates these trends.
Figure 4.2: Trades and non-trade commencements, seasonally adjusted and smoothed, September 2006 – December 2016
Source: Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Submission 51, p. 19.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) stated their commitment to apprenticeships because:
They produce skills needed for the economy;
The model is a highly valued combination of three important elements: (1) structured, nationally recognised training (2) work experience and a (3) specialised trainee/apprentice wage; and,
They are an effective vehicle for successful transitions from school to work.
In relation to apprenticeships, ACCI recommends the following to reverse the decline in apprenticeship numbers:
Supporting a national approach to apprenticeship reform, including support for tailored models that address the needs of industries, and addressing pathways from school, PaTH, and pre-apprenticeships.
Establishing an industry-led board to oversee the Skilling Australians Fund, and ensuring the fund promotes reform, and requires individual projects to address state and industry priorities.
Boost the reputation and profile of apprenticeships via an ongoing public awareness campaign.
Figure 3.3, taken from Year13’s submission, suggests that the value of apprenticeships is not appropriately presented within schools.
Figure 4.3: School based apprenticeships versus ATAR – one young woman’s view
Source: Year13, Submission 72, p. 5.
The above evidence shows that, whilst apprenticeships and traineeships are an important option for students to transition from school to work, take up is low and there is scope to better inform students of the opportunities that apprenticeships and traineeships provide.
The Committee received evidence from the Department of Education and Training and Department of Employment’s submission that 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…
Integrated Information Service (IIS) has operated the Australian apprenticeships and Traineeships Information Service (AATIS) for over 15 years, under funding from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.
AATIS publishes the Australian Apprenticeships Pathway website which provides apprenticeship and traineeship information which interprets training package qualifications and gathers each qualification’s apprenticeship and traineeship availability data from state and territory jurisdictions. This enables searches for examples of apprenticeship and traineeship occupations available in a specific state.
[W]hile higher education providers have an established profile with the school community, for the vocational sector it is a battle to find effective communication channels to careers advisers in schools. There is no direct avenue, for example, through a recognised source with acknowledged authority.
This can lead to stakeholders approaching schools using a scattergun approach. Careers Advisers can be inundated with information from a range of individual organisations using different messages and presentation styles. This lack of cohesion in the message, and the absence of information educating schools on vocational pathways, generates confusion and provides reasons to ignore the communications that are received.
Apprenticeships and traineeships are important programs that provide young people with a systematic training regime that includes on-the-job training. A decline in enrolments and a possible gap in the information that is provided to students on these programs suggest opportunities exist to get more students into these programs. It is hoped that Australian Government investment via the Skilling Australians Fund will increase the take up of apprenticeships and traineeships.
Indigenous students and multicultural students
The Committee received some evidence in relation to indigenous and multicultural students and how best to assist them in transitioning to post school education or employment.
Assisting Indigenous students into post school education or employment
Mr Indi Clarke, Manager, Korrie Youth Council, informed the Committee that it is important to recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have cultural needs that differ from non-Aboriginal people. Quoting Dr Muriel Bamblett in the Not one size fits all report he stated:
For too long Aboriginal children have been assessed using measures and assessment approaches which do not take into account their culture, beliefs, connection to community and place, spirituality and their individual experiences. Furthermore the assessment of an individual’s social and emotional status independent of the family and community is an alien concept to Aboriginal people as well as being ecologically uninformed.
Mr Clarke outlined the importance of ongoing engagement with Aboriginal communities. He explained that industries and employers who embed cultural competency and cultural safety in their organisations do best in their relationships with the indigenous community. He explained that cultural competency and cultural safety can only be achieved by ongoing relationships with indigenous communities, people and businesses. He advised that an example of best practice in this area has been the police:
…look at the police: historically, it hasn't always been the best, but they're starting to embed Aboriginal employment programs and strategies for their school-based traineeships and they're pretty well in line with best practice in breaking down those barriers and creating spaces for young people to achieve what they want.
In their combined submission, Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS) and the Koorie Youth Council (KYC) with the support of the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) (hereafter known as YDAS KYC), observed the:
…continued struggles of Aboriginal young people in educational and training spaces that do not take into account their culture, communities, families and personal experiences. Aboriginal students continue to be harmed and discouraged by racism and lack of public understanding of their culture, heritage and circumstances.
The Federation of Parents and Citizens (NSW) submission pointed out that monitoring the trend of school to work transitions for indigenous students is difficult due to higher dropout rates before Year 9. Assuming that better educational outcomes improve the likelihood of successful school to work transitions, some measures associated with improved educational outcomes for indigenous students include:
Fostering a school culture that incorporates indigenous student identity;
Boosting the engagement of indigenous families/communities in indigenous students’ education; and,
Including indigenous perspectives in curriculum (e.g. incorporating indigenous language comprehension.)
The Federation also offered a caution against assuming all indigenous student populations should be treated in the same way. Attempts to improve indigenous educational outcomes frequently fail to distinguish between indigenous students in regional and metropolitan areas, and those in remote areas. The Federation pointed out that:
Such distinctions are necessary due to the unique challenges facing indigenous students in remote areas compared to those in more populated areas.
Assisting multicultural students into post school education or employment
The Federation for Ethnic Communities Councils’ of Australia (FECCA) drew the Committee’s attention to the report Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA): The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants which stated that:
…children of humanitarian migrants are required to go to school or sometimes, in the case of older children, participate in other training or employment. According to the parents’ report, of the 689 children 5 to 17 years of age, 676 (98.1 per cent) were enrolled in school. Of the remaining 13, four were 5 years of age and three were 17 years of age. Further questions to both child and parents indicate how well children are settling into school and their new life in Australia.
Ms Nadine Liddy, National Coordinator, Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network Australia observed that the key to helping young migrants and refugees is investing in VET and apprenticeships. Ms Liddy offered Germany as an example of a country who has had to re-settle many more refugees than Australia and who are ‘investing billions of dollars into a very well-established VET system.’ Ms Liddy pointed out that:
…having adequately-funded apprenticeships, traineeships, on-the-job work experience and infrastructure to support the transition from school to work fundamentally is a really important approach.
Mr Joseph Caputo, OAM, Chairperson, FECCA, highlighted their three key recommendations that they believed will help to improve outcomes for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) youth as they move from school to work. These are:
fund research into the various opportunities for CALD Australian young people in the school-to work-transition;
ensure that schools and teachers are properly resourced and trained to support CALD Australians to achieve their individual goals such as further education or employment; and,
act to enforce appropriate and powerful protections to prevent workplace exploitation of young people, particularly young people less familiar with the Australian workplace.
The evidence shows that a well-resourced and culturally aware school and post school education systems and support are the keys to assisting multicultural students.
The Committee also received evidence on the provision of language skills to multicultural students, particularly recently arrived migrant students. Associate Professor Sarojni Choy, Professional, Vocational and Continuing Education, Griffith University, emphasised the importance of language skills that relate to a person’s vocation and the relevancy of such skills to the workplace:
… it's about mapping the language with their vocation. Learning to read and write and speak English is fine for the normal conversation, but, when it comes to doing language for work, that's where the difficulty arises. There are simple examples that we're given about how safety is compromised because they can't interpret the English language in the context of safety in the particular work practice.
Professor Doune Macdonald, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning, University of Queensland, stated:
…the language issue isn't just one from school to the TAFE sector; there is a language issue, I believe, in universities as well. The IELTS gives a certain range of skills as a qualification for entry, but often it's not operational enough, as you were suggesting, to successfully engage with a university program as well. So universities would all be spending resources on upskilling a range of students' language skills, both general language skills and skills for that particular profession. For example, UQ runs a fairly intensive language support program for pharmacy students so that they're not only able to study but, when they get to their practice placements, able to operate as a trainee professional as well.
The Committee was pleased to hear the general positivity of submitters and witnesses towards Youth Jobs PaTH. Whilst acknowledging the infancy of the program, the Committee is concerned about the lack of overall employment flowing from PaTH. Only 40 per cent of ended placements gained employment. This is in contrast to the fact that 80 per cent of those who completed placements (as to those whose placements were ended voluntarily or otherwise) gained some form of employment.
The Committee looks forward to seeing evaluations carried out by the Departments which should give a better explanation of why internships ended early.
The Committee was interested in the type of employment gained. Employment can be anything from a short-term contract in an unskilled position with little opportunity for growth to a full-time job in a skilled position with opportunity for growth. Evaluations of the program should show the type of employment generated. The Committee feels that the program should be focussed on providing long-term stable and secure employment to its participants.
The Committee agrees with recommendations on PaTH suggested by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
For those students transitioning to university, realistic expectations about the demands that will be made of them are important, as is program selection.
Some factors affecting student success at university are external to the education system – such as financial pressure, particularly on those who have had to relocate to participate in higher education. This issue warrants further consideration.
Career advisors, alongside parents, have an important role in informing students of their post-school education and employment options. Evidence to the Committee suggested that there were not enough career advisory programs and information in schools. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the availability of career advisory programs and information within the school sector be increased.
The Australian Government should support career advisors to provide secondary school students and their parents with accurate information about the benefits, such as fees and employment opportunities, of all courses available through VET. This should be extended to giving parents and students accurate information on apprenticeships and traineeships.
The evidence suggests to the Committee that there is an ingrained culture in Australia that has seen a degradation of the importance of VET, apprenticeships and traineeships. It is important that the Australian Government looks at engaging not just the careers advisors—although they are certainly pivotal—but also engaging principals, teachers and parents in the decision making process in relation to their children’s post school education or employment. The Committee hopes that some parents and students who, perhaps as a matter of course, only consider university would feel encouraged to consider VET, an apprenticeship or traineeship.
The Committee believes, and the evidence received shows, that the best way to engage a student is to give them ‘hands-on’ experience in relation to career paths they may wish to follow. The Committee therefore recommends that schools have industry engagement mechanisms in place.
The Committee is concerned about the perceived lower status of VET, apprenticeships and traineeships in comparison to university. To address this, the status of VET should be raised through various means, including greater investment in VET, and considering the establishment of further trades training in schools, among other measures. Consideration should also be given to increasing marketing activity by government and industry in schools, with additional focus on promoting the financial benefits and employment outcomes achieved on completing VET qualifications. Similar marketing activity should be implemented in relation to apprenticeships and traineeships.
The Committee acknowledges the importance of culture and school retention in improving school to work pathways for indigenous students.
The Committee also acknowledges that students from recently-arrived families need different forms of support in navigating unfamiliar education systems, obtaining English language skills appropriate to their work, in addition to conversational skills, as well as culturally-aware learning environments.
In addition, a lack of familiarity with Australian social norms and workplace laws makes students and school-leavers from recently-arrived families more vulnerable to exploitation at work. This vulnerability can undermine the success of school to work transitions.
Having regard to the evidence above the Committee makes the following recommendations.
To make government-led work experience programs more likely to lead to good jobs, the Committee recommends that such programs:
incorporate defined training components which are directly connected with specific planned and agreed work-experience component(s);
require employment service providers to ensure that employers within the current “Jobactive” system are engaged with government-led work-experience programs; and
ensure program design takes into account the importance of promoting secure employment, compliance with industrial relations laws, the avoidance of exploitation, value-for-money in respect of any publicly-funded incentives, and ongoing accountability for employment outcomes.
The Committee recommends that the Government consider the financial pressures on university students, especially those university students who have relocated to participate in higher education, and consider what might be able to be done to ameliorate those pressures with a view to increasing retention and attainment.
The Committee recommends that the availability of career advisory programs and information within the school sector be increased, and that such counselling emphasise VET, apprenticeships and alternative post-school pathways to the same extent as higher education.
The Committee recommends that all high schools should have access to trained career advisors on staff. This advisor must be able to give accurate advice to students and parents on:
the likelihood of them gaining employment post-school based upon their VET/VETIS or university qualification;
what post-school level of employment they could expect to obtain because of their VET/VETIS qualification, what post-school training they could or could not access with fee help and what post-school training they would need to complete in order to obtain employment at their desired level; and
information on apprenticeships and traineeships.
The Committee recommends that schools, working with stakeholders (such as governments, industry, industry associations, training providers and unions), be supported to have the following industry engagement mechanisms in place:
industry presentations to classes exploring different career options, particularly raising the status and perception of vocational education and training;
school councils be supported to have industry representation that can assist in providing a VET perspective across all school decision making at a strategy level;
schools engage with their local vocational education providers to provide integrated strategies for transition during and post-school to sustainable employment opportunities;
labour market information is integrated into professional development for career advisors, and schools are adequately funded to ensure career advisors have access to this training (and it be a mandatory professional development program for career advisors); and,
school models be reconsidered, and guidelines put in place, to allow students from year 9 to engage in meaningful VET programs which both provide vocational education and training and cover the curriculum’s learning areas.
The Committee acknowledges that raising the status of VET, apprenticeships and traineeships will require significant investment and reform. The Committee recommends that consideration be given to establishing more trades training in schools. In addition, the Committee recommends that the status of VET, apprenticeships and traineeships be raised through increased marketing activity by government and industry in schools, with additional focus on promoting the financial benefits and employment outcomes achieved on completing VET qualifications.
The Committee recommends that First Nations communities lead engagement with schools with a view to developing culturally-competent measures of attainment and gain.
The Committee recommends that retention of First Nations children beyond year 9 and to the conclusion of year 12 be a priority for schools, and education authorities, and that to facilitate this retention, schools are supported to:
recognise that indigenous communities are not homogenous;
work with local communities and stakeholders to ensure that the learning environments they provide are culturally-competent and culturally-safe;
incorporate indigenous student identity within the school; and
ensure that indigenous culture is visible within the school.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government ensure that indigenous perspectives are included within the National Curriculum.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in developing VET and higher education policies, take into account the specific needs of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The Committee recommends that schools and teachers be adequately resourced, supported and trained to assist students from CALD backgrounds to understand the education system, understand their post-secondary options, and make appropriate choices.
The Committee recommends that students from CALD backgrounds have access to information about their rights at work, as well as information about the services available to assist them in the event that they are subjected to unlawful conduct at work.
The Committee recommends that schools, VET providers and higher education providers be supported to provide English language training that goes beyond conversation English to training specifically directed towards ensuring that the student has the English skills needed for success in the vocation, occupation or profession that the student seeks to enter.