VET in schools is an appealing pathway to employment

Media release

14 October 2021

Students undertake VET at school for a range of reasons but mostly to gain a qualification and find full-time employment after school, according to a new report released today by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The report VET for secondary school students (VfSSS): insights and outcomes reveals the number of students studying VET as part of their senior secondary school certificate has ranged from about 230,000 to 260,000 over the past 10 years. In 2020, certificate II qualifications were the most popular (131,220 students) followed by certificate III (88,720). However, certificate III qualifications have significantly increased in popularity over the last few years.

School-based apprentices and trainees represent a small proportion (7.4% in 2020) of VfSSS, most common in business services, retail services, and tourism, travel and hospitality.

There are varied and differing perceptions among industry and employers on the benefits and challenges for students undertaking VfSSS studies, with a general acceptance that having school students in workplaces helps engage students in the industry and gain experience and knowledge. While industry values and supports VfSSS, some concerns were raised around the relevance and suitability of the VET programs being offered, and the quality of training being delivered to achieve the level of occupational knowledge required.

The research finds that schools with successful VfSSS display a strong commitment to VET, a broad range of offerings, good relationships with employers and access to purpose-built facilities for training. Case study data also finds that the key challenges for schools includes recruiting teachers with industry expertise, and ensuring that teachers maintain their industry currency.

Further, the research shows that a significant proportion (41%) of senior secondary school students studying VET were also looking to obtain an ATAR. Over two-thirds of this cohort indicated that they planned to use their VET studies to count towards their ATAR.

At age 22, VfSSS who had not attained an ATAR were more likely to be in full-time and permanent employment than other cohorts. The picture changes at age 25, with employment outcomes for VfSSS who had not attained an ATAR remaining steady, while all other cohorts were more likely to be employed, including in full-time and permanent employment.


This research examines the merits of VET for secondary school students (VfSSS) in preparing students for work or further training from the perspectives of students, parents, industry, and employers.

Quotes attributable to Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER

The research shows that VET can assist secondary school students seeking early entry into the labour market, including getting into an apprenticeship. It also shows that there are a wide range of reasons why school students choose VET, and that students studying VET at school is not a homogenous group, with many students studying VET as part of, or complementary to, an ATAR pathway.

There is general support and interest in VET undertaken at school from parents and industry, and a broad acceptance that having school students in workplaces helps students gain experience and knowledge. There are also some challenges for schools in providing a full range of options and meeting the expectations of industry, as they navigate their role as ‘dual-sector’ institutions. The research reveals some useful guidance and success factors for schools in meeting these challenges.

Download: VET for secondary school students: insights and outcomes

Related research: VET in Schools 2020

Enquiries: Deanne Loan M: 0413 523 691 E:

About NCVER: we are the main provider of research, statistics and data on Australia’s VET sector. Our services help promote better understanding of VET and assist policy makers, practitioners, industry, training providers, and students to make informed decisions.

This work has been produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments, with funding provided through the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.