The Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth, or LSAY, follows young peoples’ transitions from compulsory schooling to post-school education and into employment from the ages of 15 to 25.

The paper highlights the insights and sometimes surprising findings of 25 years of research.

The themes covered

The paper, which can be found on the LSAY website was edited by Cameron Forrest and Charlotte Scobie and published in April this year. It draws on the insights of 17 authors who have used the LSAY data. It is organised into five major sections and 14 chapters, covering socioeconomic status (SES) and family background (section 2), VET in Schools (section 3), school experiences, maths, and expectations of enrolling in university (section 4), employment and post-school outcomes (section 5) and finally section 6 provides an overview of school-to-work transitions. There is also another section, authored by Dr Tom Karmel, reflecting on undertaking and using the LSAY research and its data.

Insights from the themes

This short article can only highlight a few key selected ‘insights’, so it is worth taking a look at others included in the paper’s Executive Summary and the individual chapters. The Infographic related to the work is also useful.

Tom Karmel’s work concluded that “undertaking VET programs in Year 11, but not continuing to Year 12, had a positive effect on post-school outcomes for girls in particular.” However, “completing Year 12 is not generally sufficient for young people in terms of later employment and wellbeing outcomes, and further study is required for the best paths to success.” Finally, “apprenticeships are more likely to be undertaken by young men who are less academically inclined and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.”

When looking at SES and family background, the type of school is important. One study found that “both student and school socioeconomic status were positively associated with academic achievement at age 15 years and likelihood of enrolling in a bachelor degree.” In addition, “students from low socioeconomic backgrounds had higher levels of academic achievement at age 15 years if they attended high-socioeconomic schools” but if students from high socioeconomic backgrounds attended a low-socioeconomic school they were only half as likely to enrol in a bachelor degree.

Work on VET in schools showed that “participation in VET in Schools programs resulted in 14% higher rates of school completion” and “was also associated with lower rates of enrolment in higher education, and higher rates of participation in VET courses at certificate III level and above, in the first year out from school.” In addition, “VET in Schools programs with workplace learning components yielded higher rates of full-time employment.”

Work on the LSAY cohorts’ school experiences and expectations of enrolling at university found that “students from low socioeconomic backgrounds were less likely to enrol in university than students from high socioeconomic backgrounds by age 25 (35% vs. 64%).” Moreover, good student-teacher relationships, a positive learning culture, and some forms of career guidance increase the likelihood of students from all backgrounds enrolling in university; however, student-teacher relationships and talks from career advisors on university enrolment have a greater impact for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

In relation to employment and post-school outcomes, one study found that “almost half of all students in Years 9 through to 12 combined part-time work and school, with slightly higher rates for females.” It also found that those students who worked while at school did so for 11 to 12 hours per week on average, but “working for more than 15 to 20 hours per week … had a negative impact on school and post-school study outcomes.” On the other hand, working “for around five hours per week … had a positive impact on post-school full-time employment.”

One report looked at school to work transitions. It found that “young peoples’ transitions could be categorised into five main pathways: higher education and work, early entry to full-time work, a mix of higher education and VET, mixed and repeatedly disengaged, and mostly working part-time.”

A new focus for the latest LSAY cohort

The latest LSAY cohort, beginning in 2015, has seen several new aspects to the survey, which aim to try to measure “soft skills, personality, wellbeing, caring duties, ‘gig’ work, homelessness, social support, as well as an expanded focus on volunteering and other topics.” In addition, these LSAY data will be linked with administrative VET records, NAPLAN, senior secondary results, and higher education. So, more is in store.