Research: Regional interventions needed to help young people transition from high school to employment

New research from the Melbourne Institute, University of Melbourne, shows youth in Australia find it harder to transition from high school to employment when compared to youth in many other countries.

The authors, Professor A. Abigail Payne, Director of the Melbourne Institute, and Dr Steeve Marchand, Research Fellow, explore where Australia stands on employment rates for young adults and reports on the core issues that can impact successful transitions into employment.

Their research shows Australia has a higher rate of 20-24 year olds not in employment, education or training (NEET) when compared to many other countries including UK, USA, Ireland and Canada.

Graph showing rates of NEET in Australia compared to other countries.
Graph showing rates of NEET in Australia compared to other countries.
Source: OECD (2022) Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) (indicator).

“Transition from high school is a critical time of our lives, impacting our future education and employment. When young people are not in employment, education, or training after leaving high school, we can say they have had an unsuccessful transition. Unfortunately, this is happening too often in Australia,” said Professor Payne.

The authors identify four main factors that contribute to disadvantage and unsuccessful transitions: location, mental-health disorders, disengagement from the education system, and alcohol and drug abuse.

“The place where you grow up can greatly affect your education and choices after high school. We’re seeing some regions having a much higher NEET rate than others and this is partly because of different access to support services to the other causes of disadvantage,” said Professor Payne.

“Mental health disorders may also lead to experiencing disadvantage as a young adult, but experiencing disadvantage is also affected by location and the opportunities (or lack of) available in one’s location too. Mental health issues and or experiencing disadvantage during high school both can lead to a higher probability of truancy or substance abuse, which again makes a successful transition from high school to employment harder,” said Professor Payne.

How can Australia improve this important time in young people’s lives?

The authors are designing an online, data-based tool that will support community place-based initiatives to improve high school completion rates and transition into further education or employment.

“Well-targeted interventions are needed to improve and promote successful transitions from high school to employment in Australia. We are developing a tool for planners and policy makers that will identify where youth are facing disadvantage and where different types of interventions are needed,” said Dr Marchand.

The analysis can be found in the latest Melbourne Institute Compendium, which was published to mark the 60th anniversary of the Melbourne Institute. The Compendium includes papers on a range of contemporary issues, under the umbrella theme of evidence-based policy solutions in economic and social policy.

See the Melbourne Institute Compendium.

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University of Melbourne