Education and Employment

There are many options when you are leaving school, or are entering or re-entering the workforce at an older age. For some people, the thought of further study is exciting, but for others it isn’t a viable or favoured choice.

  • If you are considering gaining additional qualifications, there are two main training pathways for you to consider.
  • The Vocational Education and Training (VET) system develops workplace-specific skills and knowledge by delivering nationally recognised training. VET includes publicly owned TAFE institutes, private providers (including enterprise and industry providers), community organisations and schools. It provides training for a vast array of occupations, including highly skilled Technician and Trades Worker roles.
  • Australia’s higher education system is made up of universities and other institutions that offer undergraduate degrees and higher qualifications. Higher education is the pathway to a range of jobs, including the most highly skilled Professional occupations.

Employment and training decisions should be based on a variety of factors including aptitude, interests, expectations of pay and working conditions, training and goals.

Educational attainment is rising

The number of people undertaking tertiary training is increasing and more of the workforce now holds post-school qualifications. In 2019, 68% of Australians aged 20 to 64 years held post-school qualifications (up from 60% in 2009), with growth recorded in both VET and higher education qualifications.

Post-school qualifications are beneficial in today’s jobs market

People with higher level qualifications generally have better employment outcomes than those who have not completed further education after leaving school.

Labour market outcomes by highest level of educational attainment, 2019 (%)

Higher qualifications also generally lead to increased real wages. Some lower skilled occupations, though, have relatively high pay, sometimes to compensate for unsociable working hours or difficult working conditions.

Median weekly earnings in main job, by highest level of post-school qualification, 2019 ($)

What if I don’t complete further education?

Although most new jobs created in recent years (and those expected in the future) are in skilled occupations, there will continue to be large numbers of jobs in lower skilled occupations (that is, jobs which do not usually require post-school qualifications). Lower skilled occupations generally have higher turnover rates than those which require post-school qualifications and many job openings are available each year across all industries.

Significant proportions of Labourers (58%), Sales Workers (56%) and Machinery Operators and Drivers (54%) do not hold post-school qualifications. This includes occupations like General Sales Assistants, Waiters, Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers, and Truck Drivers.

There are opportunities in all industries for people who do not have post-school qualifications. For example, more than half of the jobs in Accommodation and Food Services and Retail Trade are held by workers who do not have such qualifications.

Proportion of workforce without post-school qualifications, top 5 industries, 2019 (%)

What is needed to gain employment without post-school qualifications?

There is often strong competition for jobs which do not require post-school qualifications. Previous experience is commonly required by employers and this can be a key barrier for new job seekers. There are, though, a number of strategies which can enhance a job seeker’s prospects. These are outlined in the Winning a job section.

Sources: ABS, Characteristics of Employment; ABS, Education and Work.