Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Non-school qualifications., AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 09 December 2021
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Non-school qualifications. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/non-school-qualifications
Non-school qualifications. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 June 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/non-school-qualifications
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Non-school qualifications [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2021 Dec. 9]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/non-school-qualifications
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Non-school qualifications, viewed 9 December 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/non-school-qualifications
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What are the main fields of study for young people?
How many young people are studying apprenticeships and traineeships?
In Australia, it is mandatory for young people to complete Year 10 or an approved equivalent and to continue full-time education, employment or training (or a combination) until at least 17 years of age (ACARA 2020; SCRGSP 2020). After Year 10, many young people continue their studies in senior secondary schooling (years 11 and 12) or in vocational education and training (VET).
Completing Year 12 or an equivalent non-school qualification (including VET qualifications) is an important milestone for future success and for taking on further education or training (ABS 2011). National targets have been set to increase the proportion of people who have completed Year 12 or equivalent or a non-school qualification at Certificate III or above (see Where do I find more information?).
Non-school qualifications can be completed through either higher education or VET. Apprenticeships and traineeships are a central component of the VET system and allow people to participate in paid employment and on-the-job training, leading to formal qualifications that meet national standards (Knight 2012). Universities are a major provider of higher education, along with for‑profit and not-for-profit institutions and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes (TEQSA 2018).
Higher qualifications are associated with higher earnings throughout an individual’s life as well as improved health, wellbeing and life satisfaction (Norton & Cherastidtham 2019; OECD 2019). National targets have been set to increase the number of higher level qualifications (see Where do I find more information?).
Continued education and training of individuals in the workforce are also key factors in maximising the capabilities of workers and increasing workforce participation and productivity (Skills Australia 2010).
This section provides some data from the early COVID-19 period (for qualifications only). For more information on the overall impact of COVID-19 on young people including education, see COVID-19 and the impact on young people.
ABS Survey of Education and Work
Data from the ABS Survey of Education and Work (ABS SEW), a supplement to the Labour Force Survey, are reported here. The survey is conducted in early May annually. It collects information on participation in education, non-school qualifications, transition from education to work, and current labour force and demographic characteristics for populations aged 15–74. The ABS SEW also collects some data on apprentices and trainees. Non-school qualifications are defined as qualifications awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education (ABS 2020a). Non-school qualifications may be attained concurrently with school qualifications.
National Centre for Vocational Education Research National Apprentices and Trainees Collection
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) is a national body that collects, manages, analyses and communicates statistics and research on the VET sector in Australia, including the National Apprentices and Trainees Collection. The collection holds data on all people employed under a training contract and includes both apprentices and trainees. Hence, the data on apprentices and trainees are more complete than the sample included in the ABS Survey of Education and Work. Data are collected from state training authorities and include demographic information, schooling and prior education, and cultural and language attributes of people participating in an apprenticeship/traineeship training contract.
Student experience survey
The Student Experience Survey (SES) is a national survey of current higher education students in Australia, funded by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and administered by the Social Research Centre since 2015. The SES collects student feedback on various aspects of their higher education experience including overall quality of educational experience, teaching quality, learner engagement, learning resources, student support and skills development. Higher education students can be attending universities or other non-university higher education institutions, such as TAFE institutes.
In 2020, 89% (or 1.5 million) of young people aged 20–24 had completed Year 12 or equivalent or gained a qualification at Certificate III or above. There was no significant change from the proportion in 2018 (89% or 1.5 million) (PC 2020).
In 2020, the proportion of young people aged 20–24 who had completed Year 12 or equivalent or gained a qualification at Certificate III or above was:
For reporting on the proportion of all estimated Year 12 students in a given year who meet the requirements of a Year 12 or equivalent qualification, see the Report on Government Services 2020.
Based on data from the ABS SEW, in May 2020, 36% (or 1.1 million) of young people aged 15–24 were studying for a non-school qualification: 1 in 3 (33% or 546,000) males and 2 in 5 (38% or 593,000) females (ABS 2020b).
More 20–24 year olds were studying for a non-school qualification than 15–19 year olds (44% compared with 26%) (ABS 2020b). Overseas residents in Australia are not included in these proportions (see Technical notes).
Among young people aged 15–19 and 20–24, for both age groups:
Source: ABS SEW 2020.
Based on data from the ABS SEW, in May 2020, of all young people aged 15–24 studying a non-school qualification (1.1 million young people), the top 3 main fields of study were society and culture (20% or 227,000), management and commerce (17% or 196,000), and health (14% or 161,000) (see Technical notes for field definitions). The top 3 main fields for:
Comparing the main fields studied by males and females, a higher proportion of:
Source: ABS 2020b.
The fields of study in Figure 2 can be grouped to describe those studying STEM fields (that is, natural and physical sciences; information technology; engineering and related technologies; and agriculture, environmental and related studies) and STEM-related fields (architecture and building, and health) (ABS 2020a).
Based on data from the ABS SEW, from 2011 to 2015, the proportion of young people aged 15–24 studying non-school qualifications increased (from 33% to 36%) and has since remained between 36–37%:
The proportion of young people aged 15–24 studying different levels of non‑school qualifications has varied over the last 10 years. The proportion studying:
Based on data from the ABS SEW, between 2011 and 2020, among young people aged 15–24 there was:
Between 2019 and 2020, the proportion of young people aged 15–24 studying society and culture as their main field increased from 16% to 20% (ABS 2020b). This increase was predominantly due to an increase in males studying society and culture as their main field (9.9% to 14%). The proportion studying other main fields remained relatively unchanged.
From 2011 to 2020, among males aged 15–24, there was:
From 2011 to 2020, among females aged 15–24, there was:
Over the last 10 years (2011 to 2020), the proportion of young people aged 15–24 studying STEM or STEM-related fields has increased (from 41% to 44%).
Based on data from the NCVER National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, as at 30 June 2020, 5.7% (or 181,300) of young people aged 15–24 were undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships, with the proportion of:
Of apprentices and trainees aged 15–24:
In 2019, a greater proportion of young people living in Remote areas (12% or 3,600) undertook apprenticeships and traineeships than those living in other remoteness areas (Outer regional areas (9.1% or 21,300), Inner regional areas (8.9% or 47,000), Very remote areas (6.8% or 1,600) and Major cities (4.7% or 114,000)).
At the time of this report’s release, the estimated resident population of young people for 2020 by Remoteness Areas is yet to be released.
From June 1995 to June 2020, the proportion of young people aged 15–24 undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships increased from 4.8% to 5.7%.
Sources: NCVER 2018; VOCSTATS 2021.
Between June 2019 and June 2020, the proportion of young people undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships remained relatively similar. However, there was a decrease for:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of new national initiatives were provided to support organisations both to employ new apprentices and trainees and to continue to employ existing apprentices and trainees (see Where do I find more information?) (Ferguson et al. 2021). At the time of this report, it is too early to see the effects of these initiatives on the number of young people undertaking and completing apprenticeship and traineeships.
Based on findings from the 2019 Student Experience Survey, of higher education students aged under 25, the quality of the entire educational experience was rated positively by:
From 2013 to 2019, the proportion of undergraduate students aged under 25 who rated the quality of their entire educational experience positively remained similar (varying between 79% and 81%). The proportion for postgraduate coursework students aged under 25 has been measured only since 2017 and has been consistently 75% (SRC 2020).
The proportion of higher education students aged under 25 who considered early departure from their study was:
Of undergraduate students aged under 25 who considered early departure, the most common reasons given were:
The most common reasons for considering early departure among postgraduate coursework students aged under 25 were:
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen major changes to the delivery of university and non-university higher education courses, with dramatic shifts away from face-to-face to online formats (Go8 2020). The pandemic has also likely changed the profile of students, with fewer international students able to travel to Australia due to travel restrictions (Go8 2020; DESE 2021). It is too soon to detect the impact of these changes on student experience.
For more information on:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2011. Australian social trends March 2011: Year 12 attainment. ABS cat no. 4102.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 20 April 2021.
ABS 2017. Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census data, Australia, 2016: place of usual residence (PURP, IFPURP). ABS cat. no. 2900.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 20 April 2021.
ABS 2020a. Education and Work, Australia methodology. ABS website. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 20 April 2021.
ABS 2020b. Microdata: Education and work, Australia, May 2020. Canberra: ABS. AIHW analysis of TableBuilder data. Accessed 15 December 2020.
ACARA (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority) 2020. National Report on Schooling in Australia 2018. Sydney: ACARA. Viewed 21 April 2021.
Atkinson G & Stanwick J 2016. Trends in VET: policy and participation. Adelaide: National Centre for Vocational Education (NCVER). Viewed 21 April 2021.
DESE (Department of Education, Skills and Employment) 2021. 2020 Annual infographic. DESE website. Viewed 21 April 2021.
Ferguson H, Ey C & Maslaris A 2021. Budget review 2020–21: vocational education and training. Canberra: Australian Parliamentary Library. Viewed 29 January 2021.
Go8 (Group of Eight) 2020. COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery: A Report for the Nation. Report submitted to the Australian Federal Government. Canberra: Group of Eight Ltd. Viewed 20 April 2021.
Knight B 2012. Evolution of apprenticeships and traineeships in Australia: an unfinished history. Adelaide: NCVER. Viewed 20 April 2021.
NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education) 2018. Australian vocational education and training statistics: historical time series of apprenticeships and traineeships in Australia, from 1963. Adelaide: NCVER. Viewed 20 April 2021.
Norton A & Cherastidtham I 2019. Risks and rewards: when is vocational education a good alternative to higher education? Melbourne: Grattan Institute. Viewed 20 April 2021.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) 2019. Education at a glance 2019: OECD indicators. Paris: OECD Publishing. Viewed 20 April 2021.
PC (Productivity Commission) 2020. Performance reporting dashboard. Education: National School Reform Agreement details. Viewed 25 August 2020.
SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2020. Report on Government Services 2020: school education. Canberra: Productivity Commission. Viewed 20 April 2021.
Skills Australia 2010. Australian workforce futures: a national workforce development strategy. Canberra: Skills Australia. Viewed 20 April 2021.
SRC (Social Research Centre) 2020. 2019 Student Experience Survey National Report. Canberra: SRC. Viewed 20 April 2021.
TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency) 2018. Statistics report on TEQSA registered higher education providers—August 2018. Melbourne: TEQSA. Viewed 20 April 2021.
VOCSTATS 2021. National apprentice and trainee collection through VOCSTATS. Adelaide: NCVER. Viewed 30 January 2021.
For general technical notes relating to this report, see also Methods.
Return to Australia's youth:
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