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Pathways to work for Indigenous Australians

A new national report on equity has found that the number of Indigenous people in vocational education and training is increasing, and the difference in participation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is decreasing.

Commissioned by the National VET Equity Advisory Council, and compiled by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and the Centre for the Economics of Education and Training at Monash University, the first National Report on Social Equity in VET suggests vocational education and training (VET) has become an important pathway to work for Indigenous Australians.

The report reveals the number of Indigenous Australians aged 15-64 years participating in VET increased from about 52 000 to more than 77 000 between 2002 and 2011, an overall increase of 48 per cent. In 2011 Indigenous people represented 5.3 per cent of all VET students, four per cent of commencing apprentices and trainees, and three per cent of completing apprentices and trainees.

According to the report, the rate of participation in government-funded VET for Indigenous Australians aged 15–64 years is more than twice the rate for non-Indigenous Australians, although much of this higher participation is at Certificate I and II qualification levels. At the higher VET qualification levels – Certificate III and above – the report found no difference in participation rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Report lead author and ACER Principal Research Fellow, Dr Sheldon Rothman, said the relatively higher participation in VET of Indigenous people is in part a result of the fact that many Indigenous people live in areas that are not served by higher education providers, which tends to bias their choices toward the VET sector.

In relation to achievement, the report found pass rates for Indigenous VET students were lower than the national average but were generally comparable with those for other equity groups. An important outcome of training is to move into some form of employment or further study, and non-Indigenous Australians continue to have an advantage over Indigenous Australians in this area.

Dr Rothman said multiple disadvantage occurs for many Indigenous people, particularly those who live in rural and remote areas where there are fewer opportunities for employment and further study.

‘Many Indigenous Australians experience a range of disadvantages in education. In VET, however, there are many positive indications that differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are decreasing as the participation of Indigenous people increases,’ Dr Rothman said.

School achievement outcomes for Indigenous students are typically lower than for non-Indigenous students. Indigenous students are also less likely to remain at school and receive a senior school certificate. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the apparent retention rate from the first year of secondary school to Year 12 in 2011 for Indigenous students was 48.7 per cent, compared to 80.7 per cent for non-Indigenous students.

‘The lower achievement of Indigenous Australians at school leads to greater disadvantage in later education and training, and entry to the workforce,’ Dr Rothman said. ‘Lower levels of literacy and numeracy limit options for further study and employment. As a result, VET has become an important pathway to work for Indigenous Australians.’

The first National Report on Social Equity in VET was released in June 2013. In addition to reporting on Indigenous Australians, it provides baseline information on the VET participation, achievement and transitions of people with a disability; people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; people in regional and remote locations; people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds; women; and ‘second chance learners’. â– 

Read the full report:
The National Report on Social Equity in VET 2013, by Dr Sheldon Rothman, Catherine Underwood, Dr Julie McMillan, Justin Brown and Dr Phillip McKenzie from ACER, and Dr Chandra Shah from the Centre for the Economics of Education and Training at Monash University, is available at < www.nveac.natese.gov.au/social_equity_report >

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