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Purpose ‐ The aim of this paper is to consider the role played by vocational education and training (VET) for young people in Australia. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper is based on an analysis and synthesis of the existing research and literature, including the author's own body of research in the field, regarding VET delivered in schools and in adult sector institutions. Findings ‐ This research presents evidence that VET in Schools (VETiS) constitutes an important and significant curriculum reform in upper secondary schooling, but that it is usually offered at the most basic qualification levels within the subject model paradigm of senior secondary certificates. Its heavy use by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds raises concerns regarding social selection and it suffers from problems of low esteem and variable quality, with its place often questioned within the traditional academic culture of secondary schooling. With respect to adult VET providers, the article argues that the role of TAFE across Australia for 15-19 year-olds is relatively limited, with questions raised regarding the quality of programs for younger clients, and that low SES students are more likely to enter post-school VET destinations. Practical implications ‐ This article argues that an integrated approach to VET provision, both during and after school, is needed to create quality pathways for students of all backgrounds. Originality/value ‐ The article presents an integrated view of the role played by VET across different sectors for young people. It is designed to be of value to policy makers and practitioners seeking coordinated policy responses designed to offer curriculum, diversity, and strong pathways into further education and quality full-time employment.