The value of understanding school to work transitions

| August 14, 2019

The school to work transition sounds easy right? You finish Year 12, get a qualification of some description and jump into the workforce…right?


The changing world of work actually means that young people are increasingly finding this to be quite a complicated time in their lives. Instead of making one or two transitions between school and work, they might be taking up to 15.

New research from National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) analysing the journeys of over 3,000 young people across a decade reveals the five common pathways that young people take from school to work:

Pathway 1 – Higher education to full-time work
60% of young people in the sample
Young people taking this pathway go to university and then enter the workforce full-time.

Pathway 2 – Early entry to full-time work
23% of young people in the sample
Referred to in the research as an “express pathway” to employment, young people in this pathway generally have a short amount of post-school education or training leading to full-time work. Apprentices typically fit into this category.

Pathway 3 – Mix of higher education and Vocational Education and Training (VET)
8% of young people in the sample
Young people in this pathway have a bit more variation in their journey and switch between higher education or VET, eventually leading to more stable employment or further VET studies.

Pathway 4 – Mixed and repeatedly disengaged
5% of young people in the sample
Young people in this pathway have quite a complex journey characterised by tenuous labour market attachment and typically spend the highest average number of months disengaged from the labour market of any pathway from the age of 15 to 25 years.

Pathway 5 – Mostly working part-time
4% of young people in the sample
Young people in this pathway are characterised by relatively early entry to the labour market and were mostly employed part-time over the 10 year study.

The research has highlighted that the pathways young people take are diverse, individualised and complex. From FYA’s research, we also know that it’s taking young people 2.6 years on average to transition from full-time education to full-time work compared to one year in the 1980s. So why does this all matter?

Through understanding the pathways and transitions that young people take to get to work we can start to think about ways to improve their labour market outcomes. Key factors like the time it takes you to find a job after education, whether or not a young person experiences un or underemployment, and how simple a school to work transition is, can all impact a young person’s ability to thrive in the future.

FYA’s New Work Reality report similarly focusses on this increasingly difficult time in young people’s lives to uncover the skills, experience and mindsets that can help speed up the transition to work, and better set young people up for success in the future. So while we can’t predict what the future will look like exactly for young people (try as we might!), we can set them up with the knowledge and confidence to handle these complex transitions.

If you’re interested in reading more about NCVER’s research check it out here. Or if you’d like to see a visual representation of young people’s pathways you can find a cool data visualistion here.

This blog was published by the Foundation for Young Australians and is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Read the original article here.