Improving participation and success in VET for disadvantaged learners

January 2016
Estimated publish date
March 2018
Principal researcher(s)
Professor Stephen Lamb
Associate Professor Merryn Davies
George McLean
Anne Walstab
Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University

Lisel O'Dwyer, NCVER 08 8230 8678
Project code


This study aims to:

  • Analyse barriers to participation, retention and completion in VET, including any that are not currently addressed in policy settings, and the comparative weight of those barriers
  • Identify the practices and policies associated with improved student progress and outcomes at both the provider-level and at the system level
  • Examine the conditions and factors that facilitate effective practice as well as those which inhibit effectiveness
  • Develop advice and materials for providers and systems on the activities and practices that work to improve learner outcomes


Mixed methodologies

Research questions

The key research questions are:

  • To what extent does participation and success vary by student background, location, field of study, program level and provider type? 
  • What VET provider practices are most effective in supporting student success?
  • How successful are the interventions, with whom and under what circumstances?
  • What broader programs and government policies interact with effective provider practice to promote student success (e.g. income support arrangements, child support, employment programs, welfare sector settings etc.)?
  • What framing of effective interventions would be most useful for more widespread adoption and implementation?  


This project will be undertaken in three stages. The first stage involves a review of local and international literature and policy documents focusing on evidence-based assessments of effective practice in VET to achieve stronger student outcomes as well as the development of a national database of population and labour force statistics and education and training data. The database will be used to map the participation of the Australian population in training at a national and regional level to assess the current levels of engagement among key target groups (including disadvantaged young people, school leavers and adults with low levels of attainment, Indigenous Australians) across different levels within VET structures (including apprenticeships and traineeships, provider types, AQF levels, industry areas). Synthesis of this national data will include modelling of regional differences in VET participation and outcomes. 

Stage two will involve the development of a national online survey of provider practice designed to develop quality data that informs understandings of how well VET is working across the country (and for whom) to engage, build skills and deliver awards. The survey will also allow the identification of practices, policies, provision and initiatives that contribute to patterns of engagement and productive outcomes for target groups of learners.

The third stage will involve the generation of up to 10 case studies across jurisdictions and regions to build a much more detailed picture of the VET practices and programs that support strong social, economic and employment outcomes, especially for groups currently under represented in training. 


The Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES), located at Victoria University, is a national centre for research on education and training systems with a focus on studying how well education systems work, for whom, and how they might be improved to work well for all. CIRES undertakes large-scale survey and policy-related projects covering every state and territory in Australia and every sector of education and training. CIRES employs sophisticated data mapping approaches in analysis of large scale administrative and survey based datasets to build a refined understanding of locational patterns of educational and labour market outcomes and disadvantage.