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The Australian National University

Vocational Education Participation and Attainment Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: Trends 2002-2015 and Employment Outcomes

Working Paper 114 / 2017


This report examines trends in participation in vocational education and training, and attainment of vocational qualifications, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during 2002–15. The report also investigates whether Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a higher-level vocational qualification are more likely to subsequently gain employment than those with a lower-level vocational qualification. Our analysis uses data from the Australian Census of Population and Housing, and the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset; national social surveys of the Indigenous population conducted in 2002, 2008 and 2014–15; and annual vocational education and training statistics produced from administrative collections and related surveys managed by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

The percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years who had a Certificate III or higher-level qualification increased substantially from 15% in 2002 to 34% in 2014–15. Most of the increase occurred at the Certificate III or IV level; among Indigenous women aged 15–64 years, the percentage with a qualification at this level more than tripled from 6% in 2002 to 22% in 2014–15.

Our analyses confirm that, among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, those with any level of education beyond compulsory schooling are more likely to subsequently gain employment than those without a post-school qualification. There is weak evidence to suggest that, in major cities, having a higher-level vocational qualification confers an employment advantage compared with lower-level vocational qualifications (after controlling for other observable characteristics), perhaps reflecting both the higher demand for, and supply of, skilled labour in metropolitan areas. In contrast, in regional areas, there is no significant difference between the employment outcomes of those with higher-level vocational qualifications and those with lower-level vocational qualifications.

Human welfare studies and services, and business and management-related courses were among the most common fields of study undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men completing Certificate III qualifications in each year from 2010 to 2014.

Our findings are discussed with reference to changes in the Australian labour market during the past two decades.

1442 3871
ISBN 978-1-925286-13-7
Working Paper 114/2017.pdf1.59 MB

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