Pathways for the Future Pilot Project: Summary report

This report was originally published 12 December 2021.

Image: Pathways for the Future Pilot Project: Summary report



The Pathways for the Future Pilot Project links demographic, education and employment data on over 3.5 million NSW young people aged 15 to 24 from 1996 to 2016. It analysed different student groups, mapped their pathways through senior secondary school, tertiary education and into work, and explored relationships between different pathway factors. This report presents the research and provides an overview of ground-breaking evidence on the pathways students take from education to work. The evidence base provided by this program and report will inform the development of decision-making tools that identify available career paths and next steps for education and training.

Key themes

Early academic achievement is a strong predictor of successful employment outcomes

Academic achievement in Year 10 is a significant predictor of a student’s employment outcome. Academic achievement is also shown to be highly correlated to a students’ socioeconomic status, regional-metro location and the education-to-work pathway chosen.

Students in the top 40% of their cohort in Year 10 (academics) have on average a 60% chance of being employed above the minimum wage. Students in the bottom 20% of their cohort and students without Year 10 results have a 51% and 40% chance respectively.

In addition, students in the top 40% of their cohort in Year 10 (academics) are likely to have a higher number of pathway options available to them. As a result, they are able to choose more optimal pathways into employment.

Subject patterns chosen in the HSC help to form routes into tertiary education and employment

The subjects chosen in Years 11 and 12 are an important predictor of employment above minimum wage. Subject clusters are also correlated to the choice of tertiary program, with students studying in fields of tertiary education similar to their HSC subject cluster.

There is wide variability in the employment outcomes of students by subject choice. Students who undertook a HSIE specialisation had the highest chance of being employed above the minimum wage at 60%, while students who undertook a creative arts specialisation (plus HSIE) had the lowest chance at 50%.

Students who complete Year 12 experience employment and income uplifts

Completing Year 12 provides significant uplift in the chances of employment. Compared to students who leave school early, students who complete Year 12 have a 6 percentage point (pp) uplift in the chance of earning above minimum wage and a $7,000 uplift in income. They are also less likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) at the age of 24.

Of students who leave school early, students who continue into vocational education and training (VET) programs with more optimal fields of education and qualification levels can be just as likely to earn above minimum wage compared to Year 12 completers. However, it must be noted that students who finish Year 12 are also far more likely to be studying and may not yet be earning above minimum wage at 24.

Vocational education and training delivered to secondary students (VETSS) appears to have a positive impact on student retention and employment outcomes.


  • Post-school
  • Research report

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
Return to top of page Back to top