Pathways in education and related outcomes in Western Australia
Participation in education and training has an important role in developing people's knowledge and skills and leads to benefits for the individual, the economy and the wider community. Benefits can include better employment prospects, higher income and improved general wellbeing. Although completion of schooling has a significant role, alternative pathways such as Vocational Education and Training (VET) can lead to equally desirable outcomes.
In Western Australia, school is compulsory until a person turns 16 years of age. After that time, a young person may choose to continue their schooling or pursue other options such as VET or employment. This article provides some insight into the participation of those aged 15-24 years in different levels and types of education and training in Western Australia, the pathways taken by young people after compulsory schooling and related outcomes.
YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN EDUCATION AND TRAINING
For a long time, federal and state or territory governments and the community have recognised the economic and social benefits of education and training. Given this, policies and programs to maximise young people's participation in education and training and to improve their level of educational attainment have been important priorities.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) annual Survey of Education and Work (SEW) collects information on participation in education and training at the national and state level. The May 2005 survey estimated that there were 143,400 young people aged 15-19 years in Western Australia, of whom 70% (99,900) were enrolled in a course of study. Around two-fifths (42% or 60,600) of these youth were attending school, while 13% (19,200) were attending Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and 12% (17,200) were attending higher education institutions. A small proportion of 15-19 year olds attending education were not at school, TAFE or a higher education institution.
The SEW also estimated that there were 143,100 persons aged 20-24 years in Western Australia at this time, with 35% (49,800) enrolled in a course of study. Approximately 24% (34,600) of 20-24 year olds were attending higher education institutions and 9% (13,100) were attending TAFE. A small proportion of 20-24 year olds attending education were still at school or in some other form of education.
A lower proportion of 15-19 year olds in Western Australia (42%) were attending school than the national average (50%) in 2005. However, the proportions attending TAFE and higher education were similar for Western Australia and Australia for both 15-19 year olds and 20-24 year olds.
ATTENDANCE AT EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (15-19 YEAR OLDS), By sector - 2005
The ABS Labour Force Survey provides an extended time series of people’s participation in full-time education. It shows that participation in full-time education by those aged 15-19 and 20-24 years has generally increased in Western Australia over the past 20 years, but for now at least may have peaked. The participation of 15-19 year olds was 48% in August 1986, reached as high as 67% in August 2003, and was 61% in August 2006. For 20-24 year olds, participation increased from 7% to 27% between August 1986 and August 2003 and was 24% in August 2006.
The decline in participation since 2003, coincides with a period in which the State's economy has been booming and there have been increased labour market opportunities for young people. In the three years to August 2006, the unemployment rate for Western Australians aged 15-19 years declined from 16% to 10% while for those aged 20-24 years it declined from 7% to 5%.
Throughout the past 20 years in Western Australia, participation of 15-19 year olds in full-time education has remained higher for females than males. In contrast, it has only been since 1997 that females have consistently had a higher participation rate than males aged 20-24 years.
PARTICIPATION IN FULL-TIME EDUCATION (15-19 YEAR OLDS), Western Australia
Many young people in Western Australia are combining work with their full-time education. In August 2006, 41% (37,000) of 15-19 year olds and 51% (17,800) of 20-24 year olds who were attending full-time education were also employed. A higher proportion of females attending full-time education were employed than males (45% compared to 38% for those aged 15-19 years and 57% compared to 45% for those aged 20-24 years). As might be expected, the overwhelming majority of those combining work with their full-time education were working part-time (96%).
PARTICIPATION IN FULL-TIME EDUCATION (20-24 YEAR OLDS), Western Australia
Generally, over the past 20 years, the incidence of young students combining their full-time study with work has increased. Between August 1986 and 2006 the increase has been from 29% to 41% for those aged 15-19 years and 36% to 51% for those aged 20-24 years.
PARTICIPATION IN SCHOOL
School is critical to young people’s development. Not only does it provide the stepping stone for their transition to further education and training and/or the labour market, but a learning environment in which social skills are built and friendships made. Generally, those who complete year 12 or leave school earlier but go on to acquire non-school qualifications such as a certificate or diploma, have better employment outcomes and/or improved wellbeing.
The ABS publishes statistics on schools and school students on an annual basis in Schools, Australia (cat. no. 4221.0). In July 2005, 63,200 full-time students aged 15 years or more were enrolled in Western Australian schools, of which 43% (26,900) were 15 year olds, 36% (22,500) were 16 year olds and 19% (12,100) were 17 year olds. Approximately 45,200 students were enrolled in years 11 and 12 with 55% (25,100) in year 11 and 45% (20,100) in year 12.
School age participation rates measure the proportion of the resident population of a particular age who are at school. Over the 15 year period between 1990 and 2005, school age participation rates for full-time students in Western Australia have increased. They have risen from 86% to 93% for 15 year olds, 66% to 78% for 16 year olds and 32% to 42% for 17 year olds. Comparison with national rates is not attempted here as schooling systems vary in many ways across Australia.
An emerging feature of schooling in Western Australia in recent years has been the undertaking of VET units in schools to provide students with practical experience as well as nationally recognised qualifications. Data from the Curriculum Council, Western Australia indicate that in 2005, 28% (5,800) of all full-time eligible government school students in year 12 were enrolled in at least one VET unit of competency. Around 14% (2,700) were gaining a full VET qualification, such as a Certificate I, II, III or IV while completing their year 12 studies.
The most common qualifications obtained by year 12 students were Certificates II in Business (400 students), Information Technology (210 students) and Agriculture (170 students). Students in years 8 to 11 also participated in VET courses with the most common qualifications obtained being Certificates I in Business (460 students), Information Technology (190 students) and Automotive (100 students).
In addition, SEW data for 2005 indicate that 42% (25,300) of all school students aged 15-19 years in Western Australia were also employed. This rate was slightly higher than the national average of 37% of all school students.
For many years the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) has been undertaking successive waves of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY). Analyses from this national survey program have demonstrated a complex array of pathways that youth take after their schooling and identified the most common reasons for young Australians leaving school early. In 1997, these included wanting to get a job or apprenticeship (84%), wanting to earn their own money (80%) and not liking school (51%).
In Western Australia, the Department of Education and Training collects information on the pathways of government school students in the year after they complete years 10 to 12 through their School Leaver Destinations Survey. In 2005, there were a total of 42,500 students in years 10, 11 and 12 at government schools in Western Australia.
In 2006, 87% (27,500) of students who were in years 10 or 11 in 2005 returned to school. An alternative pathway to school was identified for a further 8% (2,600) of the students including:
Nearly 5% (1,500) of year 10 and 11 students in 2005 were non-participants in the School Leaver Destinations Survey because contact was lost or they declined to take part.
- Apprenticeships (31% or 790 persons);
- Full-time work (22% or 560 persons);
- Study at TAFE (18% or 460 persons);
- Part-time work (9% or 230 persons);
- Not being in work, education or training (9% or 230 persons); and
- Traineeships (9% or 220 persons).
Overall in 2006, a higher proportion of females (90%) than males (84%) returned to school after years 10 and 11 in 2005. Where the pathway could be established, the most common alternatives for males not returning to school were apprenticeships (41%), full-time employment (22%) and study at TAFE (16%). In contrast, females who did not return to school were most likely to be undertaking study at TAFE (23%), full-time employment (22%) or part-time employment (14%).
PATHWAYS OF YEAR 10 AND 11 STUDENTS NOT RETURNING TO SCHOOL(a), Western Australia - 2006
In 2005, approximately 11,000 government school students completed year 12 in Western Australia and for 85% (9,400) their 2006 pathway was able to be identified. Of those, 35% (3,200) were undertaking university studies, 26% (2,500) were studying at TAFE, 12% (1,200) were working full-time and 8% (760) were working part-time in 2006. A further 7% (680) were undertaking an apprenticeship while 4% (350) were not in employment, education or training.
Studies at university and TAFE were the most common pathways following year 12 for Western Australian males and females. However, of those whose pathways could be identified, a higher proportion of females than males progressed to university (37% compared to 32%) and TAFE (28% compared to 25%). Full-time employment was taken up by a similar proportion of males (13%) and females (12%). In contrast, apprenticeships were far more prominent for males than females (13% compared to 2%) while part-time work was a more likely pathway for females than males (9% compared to 6%).
PATHWAYS OF YEAR 12 STUDENTS(a), Western Australia - 2006
Results from the Government School Leaver Destinations Survey conducted by the Western Australian Department of Education and Training show apprenticeships to be an important pathway from school, particularly for young Western Australian males. This is also reflected in data from Apprentices and Trainees published quarterly by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). In December 2005, there were 12,000 apprentices and trainees aged 19 years and under in training in Western Australia. This age group comprised 42% of all apprentices and trainees in training in Western Australia, which was higher than the rate recorded in other states and territories and well above the national average (31%). Across all age groups in Western Australia, nearly three-quarters (74%) of all apprentices and trainees were male. Again, this proportion was the highest of all states and territories and compared to 66% nationally.
Many young people in Western Australia, irrespective of whether or not they complete year 12, do not necessarily undertake further education or training. Some move directly into and remain in employment on an ongoing or intermittent basis while others may be without work. Generally, young people without attachment to education, training or work are at greater risk of less favourable outcomes such as an ongoing reduction in employment prospects and earning capacity.
The SEW estimates that 30% (43,500) of all 15-19 year olds were not enrolled in a course of study in Western Australia in 2005. Of those, 70% (31,000) were employed and 30% (12,900) were unemployed or not in the labour force. Males not enrolled in a course of study (81%) were more likely to be employed than females (60%). The parenting responsibilities of some young women could well play a part in this differential, as well as the greater difficulties faced by some women than men in finding work with no or limited non-school qualifications.
At the national level, the proportion of those aged 15-19 years not enrolled in study who were employed (69%) was much the same as for Western Australia (70%). However, the proportion of males from this age group in Western Australia who were employed (81%) was higher than nationally (71%). For females aged 15-19 years, the reverse applied with a lower proportion employed in Western Australia than Australia (60% compared to 68%).
OUTCOMES AFTER COMPLETING NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS
The completion of non-school qualifications can lead to a range of positive outcomes such as employment, further study and course satisfaction. Graduate Careers Australia (GCA) collects information on the outcomes and pathways of bachelor degree graduates in their annual Graduate Destination Survey. Similarly, the NCVER gathers data on the outcomes and pathways of VET graduates in their Student Outcomes Survey.
The latest GCA data available indicates that 60% of Western Australian bachelor degree graduates aged under 25 years in 2002 were available for full-time employment in 2003. Over three-quarters of those (76%) were working full-time, 13% were working part-time and 11% were not working. Approximately 32% of the bachelor graduates aged under 25 in 2002 were undertaking further studies in 2003.
VET data across all ages for Western Australia estimate that 80% (33,400) of the 2004 graduates were employed in 2005, while 12% (5,000) were not in the labour force and 8% (3,300) were unemployed. Over one-third (35% or 14,600) of the VET graduates from 2004 were undertaking further studies in 2005. They were most likely to be enrolled in TAFE (57%), private or other registered courses (23%) and university (20%).
INSIGHTS FROM THE 2001 CENSUS
The Census of Population and Housing offers some capacity to examine outcomes of young people with different levels of schooling in Western Australia. The following analysis focuses on the 24,400 Western Australians aged 25 years at the time of the 2001 Census. The majority would have completed their schooling 7 to 10 years earlier depending on whether or not they completed year 12.
Highest Level of Schooling
In 2001, 59% (14,500) of 25 year olds living in Western Australia had completed year 12 or its equivalent. A further 31% (7,500) had completed years 10 or 11, while 4% (940) had year 9 or below schooling. The remaining 6% (1,400) did not state their level of schooling or were still at school. The proportion who completed year 12 in Western Australia (59%) was lower than the national average (65%).
HIGHEST LEVEL OF SCHOOLING (25 YEAR OLDS), 2001
There were notable differences in the proportions of Western Australians aged 25 years who had completed year 12 depending on sex, country of birth, language spoken at home and Indigenous status. The rates were higher for:
In 2001, 26% (6,400) of all Western Australian 25 year olds had a certificate or diploma and 18% (4,300) had a bachelor degree or higher qualification as their highest non-school qualification. A further 47% (11,400) had no non-school qualifications.
- Females (63%) than males (56%);
- Persons born overseas (70%) than persons born in Australia (59%);
- Persons whose main language spoken at home was not English (71%) rather than English (60%); and
- Non-Indigenous (63%) than Indigenous persons (23%).
The proportion of 25 year olds with a certificate or diploma as their highest qualification was higher for non-completers (30%) than year 12 completers (26%). Similar population characteristics (for example, being male, non-Indigenous, born in Australia and speaking English at home) were more likely to be associated with having a certificate or diploma as their highest non-school qualification, irrespective of whether year 12 had been completed or not.
For year 12 completers, a bachelor degree or higher qualification was more common for:
A higher proportion of 25 year old non-completers than year 12 completers were without a non-school qualification (63% compared to 40%). Females (71%) who did not complete year 12 were more likely than males (57%) to be without a non-school qualification.
- Females (32%) than males (26%);
- Persons born overseas (35%) than persons born in Australia (27%);
- Persons whose main language spoken at home was not English (35%) rather than English (28%); and
- Non-Indigenous (29%) than Indigenous persons (6%).
In 2001, there were notable differences in the labour force outcomes of year 12 completers and non-completers aged 25 years in Western Australia. Around 79% (11,500) of 25 year olds who completed year 12 were employed compared to 63% (5,300) of non-completers. One-quarter (25% or 2,100) of non-completers were not in the labour force while a further 12% (990) were unemployed. Of year 12 completers, 15% (2,200) were not in the labour force and 810 (6%) were unemployed.
Differences in employment outcomes between year 12 completers and non-completers were evident for males and females but they were more significant for females. Nearly 81% (5,600) of male completers were employed compared to 73% (3,400) of non-completers. In comparison, 77% (5,900) of female completers were employed compared to 50% (1,900) of non-completers. More than 42% (1,600) of female non-completers were not in the labour force and nearly three-quarters (74%) of them were partnered with children or lone parents. In contrast 18% (1,400) of women who completed year 12 were not in the labour force.
LABOUR FORCE STATUS (25 YEAR OLDS), By highest non-school qualification and sex, Western Australia - 2001
The occupations in which people work are often closely linked to educational attainment as many jobs require formal qualifications and/or specific skills. Given this, it is not surprising that in 2001, the occupational profiles of 25 year old Western Australians were noticeably different depending on whether or not they had completed year 12 and/or obtained specific non-school qualifications.
For 25 year old completers, 27% (3,100) were professionals, 20% (2,300) were intermediate clerical, sales and service workers and 14% (1,600) were associate professionals. For both males and females, those who completed year 12 were most likely to be professionals (25% and 30% respectively). The occupations of 25 year old non-completers, however, were very different for males and females. The most common occupation for male non-completers was tradespersons and related workers (39%) while females were most likely to be intermediate clerical, sales and service workers (32%).
OCCUPATIONS OF 25 YEAR OLD MALES, By level of schooling, Western Australia - 2001
The majority (62%) of employed 25 year olds with a bachelor degree or higher qualification were professionals and this was the case for both males (60%) and females (63%). The most common occupations for males with a certificate or diploma as their highest qualification were tradespersons and related workers (47%) and associate professionals (13%). Females with a certificate or diploma were most likely to be intermediate, clerical, sales and service workers (38%) and associate professionals (17%).
OCCUPATIONS OF 25 YEAR OLD FEMALES, By level of schooling, Western Australia - 2001
People with higher levels of educational attainment have an advantage in a competitive labour market. They are more likely to be employed in skilled occupations which are often associated with higher incomes.
Income from employment is important for a person's financial independence and their general wellbeing. The comparison of income levels of Western Australian 25 year olds who were employed at the time of the 2001 Census shows that 36% (4,100) of year 12 completers and 25% (1,300) of non-completers had weekly income of $700 or more.
Overall, 38% (3,500) of employed males and 25% (2,000) of employed females had income of $700 or more per week. The proportion of males receiving this amount of income was 42% for year 12 completers and 32% for non-completers. For females the rates were lower, being 30% for year 12 completers and just 11% for non-completers. The lower incidence with which females worked 35 hours or more (65% compared to 76%) is likely to have at least, in part contributed to these differentials.
WEEKLY INCOMES OF 25 YEAR OLD EMPLOYED MALES, By level of schooling, Western Australia - 2001
Generally, higher non-school qualifications were also associated with higher income. In 2001, 56% (2,000) of employed 25 year olds whose highest qualification was a bachelor degree or higher had income above $700 per week. This compared to 33% (1,700) of those with a certificate or diploma and 21% (1,500) with no qualifications.
WEEKLY INCOMES OF 25 YEAR OLD EMPLOYED FEMALES, By level of schooling, Western Australia - 2001
Both employed males and females who had a bachelor degree or higher qualification tended to have higher income than those with a lower level qualification or no qualifications. In the case of males, 60% with a bachelor degree or higher qualification had income of $700 or more compared to 44% of those with a certificate or diploma and 26% without a non-school qualification. The difference was much greater for females, with 52% of those with a bachelor degree or higher qualification having weekly income of $700 per week or more compared to 16% of those with a certificate or diploma and 14% without a qualification.
WEEKLY INCOMES OF 25 YEAR OLD EMPLOYED MALES, By highest qualification, Western Australia - 2001
In 2001, 69% (16,800) of 25 year olds in Western Australia were living outside the parental home (including persons who had formed a separate family unit but were living with their parents) and a further 19% (4,700) were living in the parental home. Details for the remaining 12% (2,900) people were not available. Living arrangements differed between males and females, with a higher proportion of males living in the parental home (24% compared to 15%). Females were more likely to be in both a registered marriage (25% compared to 13%) or a defacto marriage (21% compared to 17%).
WEEKLY INCOMES OF 25 YEAR OLD EMPLOYED FEMALES, By highest qualification, Western Australia - 2001
The living arrangements of 25 year old males differed between year 12 completers and non-completers. Male completers were more likely than non-completers to be a group household member (16% compared to 11%), partnered without children (22% compared to 18%) or living inside the parental home (25% compared to 23%). In contrast, a higher proportion of the non-completers were partnered with children (16% compared to 8%) and slightly more likely to be in registered marriages (14% compared to 13%) or defacto marriages (20% compared to 16%).
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF 25 YEAR OLD MALES, Western Australia - 2001
Female living arrangements also differed between year 12 completers and non-completers. A higher proportion of 25 year old female completers than non-completers were partnered without children (32% compared to 20%) or living in the parental home (17% compared to 11%), while non-completers were more likely to be partnered with children (31% compared to 15%) or lone parents (16% compared to 4%).
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF 25 YEAR OLD FEMALES, Western Australia - 2001
There are an increasing number of pathways in education and training and work in Western Australia. Although positive outcomes can be achieved through the various pathways available, the likelihood of attaining particular employment outcomes is influenced by the educational pathway taken.
Young Western Australian people with higher levels of year 12 completion and non-school education are generally advantaged in terms of employment opportunities, including higher skilled occupations and higher levels of employment and income. In contrast, those with lower levels of education are more likely to be unemployed or not in the labour force. They also have a greater propensity to be partnered (married or defacto) or living with children.
Generally, young Western Australian females are benefiting most in terms of their employment and income prospects by completing year 12 and obtaining higher education qualifications. For males, more traditional trades-based qualifications are proving popular alternatives to year 12 completion and higher education and providing positive employment and income outcomes.
Marks, GN and Fleming, N. Early school leaving in Australia: Findings from the 1995 Year 9 LSAY cohort (LSAY Research Report No. 11) August 1999