1 in 8 young australians are neet

The OECD suggests Australia needs to rekindle VET’s value as strong pathway to employment.

Over the past two years the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD ) has published five reports in its Investing in Youth series. Early September saw the release of Investing in Youth: Australia (240 pages). At the heart of the report is consideration of what can best be done to support young people who are ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEET). It’s important to note that VET is one of ten key policy options for improving the outlook for the NEET group.

Almost 12% of young Australians – 580,000 individual young people – are NEET. A low level of educational attainment is one very significant predictor of NEET status. If your highest level of education is Year 10 you are three times more likely to be NEET. But the problem is more encompassing that that. In 2015 almost one in five Australians between the ages of 16 and 24 were NEET.

The OECD spruiks the importance of VET as a pathway to work and further study for young Australians, including those in the NEET group. But the OECD is not glib about this; it notes some direct challenges for us if VET is to play that role well. For example, the section of the report on vocational training (pages 162-181) includes this startling data point: the completion rate for full time VET students stands at 46%, compared with an average rate in other OECD countries of 64%.

Strategies for improving outcomes for young people

We do need to do more to help young people stay in the game, both for their own benefit and for the national benefit. The report suggests several strategies Australia could do more about: improve quality in the system, provide better career advice to young people, and ensure that much more information is readily available about providers and job outcomes.

Beyond those strategies the report suggests we need to be:

  • much more vigorous in promoting VET as an educational pathway that is of equal status with higher education, and
  • much more adventurous in how we use apprenticeships as a pathway to work.

Each of these suggestions has scored a place on Australia’s national VET agenda for many years. They seem unlikely to move along unless we tackle them with urgency and innovation.