Australian policy-makers have an ongoing interest in school non-completion and non-completers’ subsequent pathways into employment or re-engagement with education. The education attainment targets set by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2009 were for 90% of 20 to 24-year-olds to have completed Year 12 or equivalent or a certificate III. The proportion of people in this age group without a Year 12 qualification has steadily declined since that time but since 2019 has remained at around 18%. Understanding the motivations, pathways and outcomes of the young people who do not complete Year 12, especially those who do not transition into work is therefore a topic of interest.

This research explores the pathways of early school leavers — that is, those who leave school without completing Year 12 — by means of an analysis of data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY). In particular, the research examines the characteristics of those who re-engage with education, especially via vocational education and training (VET).

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