Careers Update – August 8, 2019

August 7, 2019

School-to-work pathways

Young people experience diverse and individualised school-to-work pathways. While the majority of young people in follow a generally simple higher education-to-work pathway or entered full-time work relatively early, some experience complex post-school pathways, with frequent switching between higher education and vocational education and training (VET) activities, episodes of part-time work and repeatedly moving in and out of the labour market.

Based on data from the 2006 cohort of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY Y06), this research explores the school-to-work transitions of Australian youth aged 16 to 25 years. Identifying the five key types of pathways taken by young people on their journey from school to work, this research describes these pathways and the implications of their evolution for labour market destinations over the 10 years from 2006 to 2016, when the cohort was aged 25 years.

The five key pathways followed by youth aged 16 to 25 years revealed by the analysis are:

Pathway 1: Higher education and work

This represents the largest group (60% of the sample) and encompasses an extended period of post-school higher education, followed by employment.

  • This is a relatively simple pathway and is basically an academic track, whereby students enrol in university upon leaving school and have a prolonged higher education period before transitioning into employment.
  • This pathway contains the highest proportion of youth from metropolitan areas, who have the highest socioeconomic status and who completed Year 12.
  • This pathway also has the lowest proportion of youth with an Indigenous background or who were married or had children early, and the fewest number of young people who undertook vocational subjects during secondary school.

Pathway 2: Early entry to full-time work

This is an -‘express pathway’ to employment and includes apprenticeships and traineeships. This pathway comprises a relatively short spell (14.3 months on average) of post-school education or training, leading to full-time work (23% of the sample). For many respondents, however, it is likely that training jointly in combination with full-time work extends beyond early post-school years, as part of an apprenticeship or traineeship. Young people in this pathway have the fastest entry to employment and also spend the longest time in work.

  • This is a predominantly male pathway, with a high proportion undertaking vocational subjects in secondary school; almost half had undertaken apprenticeship/traineeships by the age of 25 years.
  • This pathway contains the highest proportion of young people who were married by the age of 25 years, and the highest proportion in technical and trades occupations at the age of 25 years.

Pathway 3: Mix of higher education and VET

This pathway comprises an extended period of higher education and VET activity, eventually leading to more stable employment or further VET activity (8% of the sample).

  • Youth in this pathway have a relatively complex trajectory, with frequent switching between university and VET activities.
  • This pathway is predominantly comprised of females, with a large number engaged in VET activities after the age of 20 years; they also spend the highest average number of months (35.2) in post-school VET activities and hold the most VET qualifications by age 25 years. At this age, 26.8% held a bachelor’s degree as their highest qualification, while a further 25.6% held an advanced diploma/diploma qualification, and 15.4% held a certificate IV.
  • The highest proportions of these young people are working as professionals (20.1%) and community and personal service workers (22.8%), and in clerical and administrative occupations (16.5%) at age 25 years.

Pathway 4: Mixed and repeatedly disengaged

This pathway is characterised by multiple and repeated labour market movements and disengagement, indicating tenuous labour market attachment (5% of the sample).

  • This represents the most complex pathway and contains the highest proportion of young people experiencing more than 10 transitions between the ages of 16 and 25 years.
  • Young people in this pathway spend the highest average number of months disengaged from the labour market (16.2 months) or unemployed (41.2 months), with 53.1% not working at age 25 years.
  • This pathway has the highest proportions of vulnerable youth, indicated by the higher incidence of teenage marriages or parenting, disability, early school leavers and youth from the lowest socioeconomic status (SES).

Pathway 5: Mostly working part-time

This represents the smallest group (4% of the sample), a group characterised by relatively early entry to the labour market and mostly employed part-time over the 10 years.

  • Youth in this pathway spend the most time in part-time employment between the ages of 16 to 25 years.
  • They hold the least qualifications of all the pathways (with the highest share, at 17.9%, holding a certificate III), and 50.9% have no post-school qualifications at the age of

    25 years. They also spend the least amount of time in post-school education.

  • At the age of 25 years, young people in this pathway are primarily in community and personal services (26.8%), sales (18.8%) and clerical and administrative occupations (12.5%).