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Skills and Capability5.1 Education and Workforce

5.1.1 Adults with school and non-school qualifications

The progression from secondary education to both tertiary academic studies and vocational qualifications is an important step towards the formation of specialised skills and capabilities in a variety of fields and disciplines. The share of Australian adults with a University degree has risen from 23.0 per cent in 2009 to 28.4 per cent in 2019. The share of those with a Certificate or diploma has also risen over the same period from 24.8 per cent to 27.2 per cent. Consequently, the share of adults with Year 12 or Year 11 or below qualifications have fallen over this period. All four measures are affected by a change to the age range question that was introduced in the 2014 survey. This change added older people (aged 65–74 years) to the survey population and consequently increased the share of adults with Year 11 or below qualifications, whilst decreasing the other categories.[133]

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5.1.2 Adults with non-school qualifications by field of study

Students' choice of field of study may be guided by many factors, including personal aspirations; previous experience; education assessment results; or perceptions of future employment prospects. In 2019, the top three successfully attained fields of study represented in the adult population with non-school qualifications in Australia were Management and commerce (23.3 per cent), Engineering (16.5 per cent) and Society and culture (14.7 per cent). The proportions of different fields of study represented in the adult population with non-school qualifications remained broadly constant between 2015 and 2019.[134]

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5.1.3 Adults studying for a non-school qualification by field of study

Management and commerce as a field of study is attracting the most non-school students (around 443,000 in 2018), and has done consistently since 2015. This is followed by Society and culture (just over 329,000) and Engineering (299,000) which frequently switch between second and third place. Other popular fields include Architecture and building (161,000), Health (135,000), Food and hospitality (129,000) and Education (119,000). Overall non-school numbers have shrunk over the years from nearly 2.4 million in 2015 to just over 2 million in 2018.[135]

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5.1.4 Apprentices and trainees by occupation

The labour force of a modern economy requires diverse skills and qualifications. However, evidence suggests that the occupations of apprentices and trainees (i.e. labour force in the pipeline) have become less diverse in recent years. In 2019, over half of all apprentices and trainees worked in just three fields: Construction (57,000 in 2019), Automotive and engineering (46,000) and Electrotechnology and telecommunications (40,000). Construction and Automotive and engineering have been very popular since at least 2000, while Electrotechnology and telecommunications has gradually gained popularity over time. Other occupations peaked in 2012 and have fallen since then, particularly Sales assistants (from 40,000 in 2012 to 11,000 in 2019), Specialist managers (from 37,000 in 2012 to 530 in 2019) and Office managers (32,000 in 2012 to around 3,200 in 2019). This is partly driven by changes to the financial incentives under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program since 2012. These changes have primarily affected non-National Skills Needs Lists apprenticeships and traineeships.[136]

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5.1.5 Apprentices and trainees by employer industry

Vocational study is most useful when students can work in the same field as their studies. The great majority of apprentices and trainees (in training) work in the Construction industry (90,000 in 2019). This has been the most popular industry of employment since 2007, and the only employer industry not to shrink significantly since 2012. All other major employer industries peaked in 2012 and have declined since then. Manufacturing declined by more than 60 per cent (from 61,000 in 2012 to 23,000 in 2019) and Accommodation and food services fell by more than 50 per cent (47,000 in 2012 to 21,000 in 2019). The peak in 2012 and subsequent decline were partly driven by changes to the financial incentives under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program since 2012. These changes have primarily affected non-National Skills Needs Lists apprenticeships and traineeships. The Construction industry was not affected, and its numbers have continued to climb since 2012.[137]

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