Data shows how schoolies spend their first year in the ‘real world’

IT’S that time of the year again when, after some serious cramming and last-minute study into the early
hours of the morning, the anxious wait begins for end-of-year exam results.

Gap years are being planned and, for many, Schoolies weeks are well and truly underway. But, what’s next for these young adults? Where do most of them end up and what do they end up doing?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has published its latest figures for the Survey of Education and Work (SEW), giving us an insight into the career and education pathways taken by last year’s school leavers.


Conducted each year in May, the Survey complements the ABS’ Labour Force Survey.

According to 2018 SEW data, 302,400 teenagers aged between 15 and 20 left school in 2017. Of these, just 77.6% had finished Year 12 or equivalent, and 62.5% went on to pursue further study.

The data showed young people aged 18-24 years were most likely to choose courses in management and commerce (17%), health (16%) or society and culture fields such as social science (15.6%).

Ten years ago, just 56.3% of school leavers continued to study.

Of the 113,700 students who left school last year and did not continue studying, the majority were this year in either full-time or part-time employment, while 35.7% remained without work.

Almost a quarter of those who spent this year working (24.9%) did so in a sales job, while 21.6% became a community and/or personal service worker.

Close to 19% became technicians and trades workers, while 17.9% snapped up work as a labourer.

The SEW data, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, also showed remoteness played a huge part in whether young people chose to study or work.

More than three-quarters (79.3%) of young men in major cities are working or studying compared
with 71.3% in inner regional areas.

It falls even further, dropping to 65.7% in outer regional/remote and very remote areas.

For young women, it’s 75.9% in major cities; 54.8% in inner regional and 51.0% in outer regional/remote and very remote areas.

But what about apprenticeships and traineeships?

The SEW shows that in May 2018, there were 154,500 people aged 15 to 24 who were employed as
apprentices or trainees and were part of the Australian Apprenticeship Scheme.

Of these, 78,600 (50.9%) started their apprenticeships or traineeships in the last 12 months.

The stand out figures for apprentices and trainees show that the overwhelming majority were young men
(86.0%) and nearly two-thirds (62.7%) were in capital cities.

As in previous years, construction was the most common industry for apprentices and trainees with
46.5% employed in this industry.

What about University?

CENSUS data shows the number of students choosing to further their education is on the rise.

Data from the 2016 Census shows that around one-fifth (or 21%) of all students in Australia were
attending university in 2016, compared with just 16% ten years ago.

Where young people live was also a factor in what kind of study the students went on to do.

Census data shows us that in 2016, almost half of all people with qualifications who lived in a capital city
held a Bachelor degree or above (49%), compared with people living outside capital cities (30%).

Meanwhile, just under a third (or 32%) of people in capital cities held a Certificate level qualification,
while half of all people outside capital cities held this same level of qualification.

Schoolies and gap years

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Overseas Arrivals and Departures data also offers insights into the number of young people travelling after finishing school.

In the first week of December 2017 – corresponding to a Schoolies week away – 8,000 teenagers aged 17 and 18 returned to Australia from a trip overseas.

The top five destinations for these getaways were Indonesia, the USA, Fiji, New Zealand, and Thailand.

Indonesia was by far the favourite choice, with Bali being the top pick, but it’s not as popular as it once was for this age group, with 4,400 trips in 2011 at its peak compared with just 1,900 last year.

Many will also go on to take gap years or time out overseas, whether for work, study or holidays.

Over the past 5 years, 21,300 17-19 year olds have spent between six-12 months overseas, returning from
the top three destinations of the UK (5,500 people), the USA (2,900 people) and New Zealand (1,700z

*Cited Survey of Education and Work data has been calculated at one decimal place whilst data cited from Census 2016 has been calculated at zero decimal places.