There are many reasons why individuals undertake a VET qualification. Too, there has always been contention about completion rates, which for some qualifications is quite low. In fact, some students do not see completion as their primary object. They may be after other things.

NCVER released an informatic data tool this year titled “What factors explain the likelihood of completing a VET qualification?” In it they seek to identify the important factors that explain completions, so have a prowl around it! The accompanying support document, with the same title and authored by Adrian Ong and Michelle Circelli provides the basis for most of this article.

So what did they find?

Overall, completion rates were around 40%. There are a number of factors that help explain the likelihood of completing a qualification. These include:

  • Age – older students are more likely to complete
  • Gender – females are more likely to complete
  • Jurisdiction – completion rates in South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are higher
  • Field of study – society and culture, which includes social and youth work, children’s services, aged and disability care, law and justice studies etc.; health; education and management and commerce all have relatively higher completion rates
  • Prior study – Those who had prior education at the time of course commencement are more likely to complete
  • Employment – those who are employed full- or part-time, or self-employed are slightly more likely to complete
  • Institution – those enrolled at universities are far less likely to complete (32%). Of the other types TAFEs and Community Education providers are roughly on a par (42% vs. 43%), with other provider types only marginally higher (44%).

The analysis also found what many of us know or intuitively feel: that it is “disadvantaged students (that is, Indigenous students, students with a disability and students from a low socioeconomic [SES] background)” are less likely to complete a qualification. In addition, those less likely to complete tend to be enrolled in a certificate I or II qualification. This group, of course, includes many of those with a disadvantaged background as these certificates are often referred to as “enabling courses”. They help participants acquire foundation and marketable skills and access further studies, or possibly work. So this mixture of course level and student type is sort of a ‘double whammy’ and accounts for relatively poor completion rates in these lower level certificates: particularly Certificate Is.

On the other hand, students in an apprenticeship or traineeship are more likely to complete their VET qualifications. Using multiple modes of learning also increases the likelihood of completion or – predictably – those who complete using RPL or credit transfer. Those least likely to complete studied in the classroom only, electronically or by correspondence. No real surprises there either.

Overall, they concluded that: “course and student attributes play a pivotal role in explaining the likelihood of completion at the aggregate level.”