A just-released NCVER report looks at the transition experience from school to work.

The possible pathways they have identified are rich, individual and diverse – and certainly not straightforward.

The pathways

Authored by Rasika Ranasinghe, Emerick Chew, Genevieve Knight and Gitta Siekmann, the report uses data from the 2006 Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth – or LSAY to its friends and admirers. The study followed the pathways of nearly 3200 young people from school to further education or other destinations.

The LSAY survey gathers information on these young peoples’ education activities and employment, as well as details about their socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The sample was made up of all those who completed the survey every year for 10 years until 2016, beginning when they were just 15 years old and ending when they were to 25.

The study identified 5 clear pathways. VET’s involved in several of them and emerges as an important avenue in school-to-work transitions.  Let’s take a brief look at each of the five.

The biggies: Pathways 1 and 2

Pathway 1 is the traditional academic track: ‘Higher education and work’. It accounted for 60% of the young people sampled. “In this pathway, most young people make a relatively smooth transition from school to higher education and remain in education for an extended period before entering full-time employment.” Study at university is the dominant activity. They tend to be from metropolitan areas and have high Socio-Economic Status (SES) backgrounds. By the age of 25 years “92.4% of young people in this pathway were employed.”

Pathway 2: ‘Early entry to full-time work’ is the major VET pathway. It accounts for 23% of the sample and is described as:

“an ‘express pathway’ to employment, distinguished by a short spell of post-school education or training (mostly VET) leading to full-time work approximately one year after leaving school.”

For many in this group there is a combination study with full-time work, typically – at 47.3% – as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship. This group was predominantly male and typically had studied VET at school. They were mostly VET qualified by age 25 and employed in VET-related qualifications by that time. Pathway 2 had the highest employment at age 25 years of all the pathways at 97.4%.

The other pathways

Pathways 3, 4 and 5 are ‘Mix of higher education and VET’ (Pathway 3), ‘Mixed and repeatedly disengaged’ (Pathway 4) and ‘Mostly working part-time’ (Pathway 5). They account for 8, 5 and 4 percent of the sample respectively.

Pathway 3 sees young people with relative complex trajectories and frequently switching between university and VET activities. The qualification mix is also diverse and shared between VET and higher education.  The group is predominantly female and “a large share of this group engaged in VET activities after the age of 20 years.” In this group there is also some evidence that those who were in higher education went on to undertake VET activities at a later stage.

Pathway 4 is the most complex of all. It has “the highest proportion of vulnerable youth, characterised by the highest incidence of teenage marriages or parenting, disability, early school leavers and youth from the lowest SES quartile.” On average those in this pathway spent the most months unemployed or out of the labour force, as well as the least months in school. It has a high share of those with no qualification, but the highest ‘no-qualification’ pathway in that category is Pathway 5.

One in two in Pathway 5 had no post-school qualification at the age of 25 years and they also spent the least amount of time in post-school education. The pathway is also complex, and while around 51% had no post-school qualification, they had “had maintained good contact with the labour market, with 90.2% employed.”

A couple of key messages

The study found that studying a vocational subject at school age is a significant positive factor in all non-academic pathways.

VET is also an important means for facilitating pathways to the labour market, particularly for Pathways 2 and 3.