This paper reports findings from a survey of former students from six Australian rural school clusters. It compares the experiences and outcomes of students who had participated in a school vocational education and training (VET) program with those who had not. School VET courses intended to provide a pathway to local employment appear to be successful in retaining students who otherwise may have left school before completing Year 12, and in assisting their transition from school to work. Tor all school VET students, the work placement component of the program aids the transition to local jobs and apprenticeships, and increases youth retention in the community. As the findings indicate that school VET students are predisposed to live in a rural area at some time during their working life, the paper concludes that VET programs in rural areas have special potential to develop skills and pathways for the future workforce of rural Australia.