The value of completing a VET qualification

By Tom Karmel, Peter Fieger Research report 10 October 2012 ISBN 978 1 922056 20 7


Completion rates are an obvious performance indicator for the VET sector. However, there is a view that low completion rates are not such an issue because students leave when they have learnt the necessary skills. Using data from the 2009 Student Outcomes Survey, the report looks at the pay-off to completion on a range of outcomes, and identifies the groups for whom completion is particularly important.


About the research

Completion rates are an obvious performance indicator for the vocational education and training (VET) sector. Previously published figures indicated overall completion rates as low as 27%. One response to this is the argument that there are many students who do not need to complete their qualification as they acquire the skills they need without going through the entire curriculum of a qualification. For them, completion is not an issue.

To throw further light on this issue this paper identifies groups of students for whom there is a clear benefit in completing their qualification. The authors use data from the 2009 Student Outcomes Survey to test whether completion is beneficial in relation to a number of predefined post-study outcomes. These are employment, further study, a combination of employment or further study, 'improved' employment, occupational status and salary. The authors find that completion has an overall strong positive effect on these pay-off variables. However, the extent of the pay-off varies greatly across different groups of students.

Key messages

  • Completion of a VET qualification is beneficial, on average, across all of the outcome variables considered.
  • The overall pay-off from completion is greatest for the 'further study' outcome, with the likelihood of a graduate engaging in further study more than double that of a non-completer.
  • In relation to being employed after training, those students who were not in employment prior to training benefit greatly from the completion of their qualification.
  • The two groups for whom there is a significant pay-off from completion in terms of wages are those undertaking diplomas and above and those who were not employed before training and who are undertaking a certificate III/IV.

Clearly completion matters, but not in all circumstances.

Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER



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