Youth Action, Mission Australia and Uniting have produced a report highlighting the real and ongoing dilemmas faced by young people in accessing Vocational Education and Training (VET), especially for those experiencing disadvantage.
Underpinned by community consultations and a sector stakeholder survey as well as research and a literature review, the report clarifies the challenges faced by young people who want to complete a VET qualification.
The young people directly interviewed reported significant difficulty in finding out about, accessing and being able to maintain engagement in VET courses. The survey of organisations that work with young people experiencing disadvantage showed:
• 98% said young people undertook VET to enter employment for the first time
• 82% said increased financial support (fee-free courses or scholarships) would assist disadvantaged young people to access a qualification
• 74% said literacy and numeracy issues were significant barriers to completing VET qualifications.
• 78% identified better career guidance as a key strategy to guide and retain students.
The report has four main recommendations grouped into two main areas: affordability and Financial Support, and providing access to information and support. It urges the NSW government to hold consultations with community organisation and VET providers to develop strategies to address these recommendations holistically.
As Katie Acheson, CEO, Youth Action says
“Education is one of the most effective pathways out of poverty and disadvantage and right now in NSW there are too many obstacles preventing young people experiencing disadvantage from starting or completing that journey towards employment.”
Dr Evelyne Tadros, Mission Australia Metro State Leader, goes further “When young people face difficulties transitioning from school to further education and employment, it can result in unemployment, underemployment and social exclusion. And the ‘scarring’ that occurs when someone is out of work for a lengthy period can have negative impacts on the person’s health and wellbeing while also reducing the likelihood of future employment.
“To avoid these negative outcomes, it is vital that we see more investment in evidence-based supports, programs and services including place-based investment into disadvantaged and rural areas. There also needs to be VET access options for early school leavers where mainstream schooling is not appropriate or possible, as well as simplification of scholarship information and other financial supports and ensuring these are available through a range of accessible channels.”
The report advocates for greater flexibility with VET entry requirements and additional individualised wrap-around supports to be provided to ensure young people experiencing disadvantage can commence, continue and successfully complete their VET courses. This should include increased access to literacy and numeracy support and other foundation level courses in community-based locations.
The VET sector is vital to create a workforce that meets the growing and unmet demand in different employment sectors. The NSW Government and the community will benefit from efforts to ensure young people are provided with opportunities to successfully pursue careers in their chosen employment pathways through a whole-of-sector approach.
Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia, comments:
“CCA welcomes the important attention that this report brings to our young people, including the challenges that they face in accessing VET. Our concern is that the authors have not properly acknowledged the role that NSW community colleges play – and could play more, if given the resources – in meeting the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. The NSW Government’s Community Service Obligation program for adult and community education providers ensures that each year thousands of young people access VET in a community environment. The report shows that the need is great, so an increase in the community VET CSO is called for.”