Comparison of Year 12 completers and Early school leavers factsheet

This report was originally published 31 August 2020.

The NSW Post-School Destinations and Experiences Survey collects information about students’ main destination1 in the year after completing Year 12 or leaving school. We spoke to 18,777 Year 12 completers and 6,135 early school leavers.

This fact sheet provides a brief overview of the differences between NSW Secondary School Students who completed Year 12 in 2018 and those who left school in 2018 before finishing Year 12 (known as early school leavers).

Main post-school destination


Year 12 completers Early school leavers
Bachelor degree 48.4% 1.5%
VET Cert IV+ 5.1% 5.9%
VET Cert III 2.1% 7.3%
VET Cert I-II 1.0% 3.2%
Apprenticeship 5.1% 29.1%
Traineeship 3.9% 7.1%
F/T work 8.4% 9.8%
P/T work 17.7% 15.2%
Looking for work 5.7% 15.7%
NILFET 2.5% 5.2%

Year 12 completers were more likely than early school leavers to be in some form of education or training (65.7% compared with 54.2%). Close to half of Year 12 completers were undertaking a Bachelor degree, whereas this was the least common destination for early school leavers.

Early school leavers were more likely than Year 12 completers to be in the following destinations:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Traineeships
  • VET Certificate I-II
  • VET Certificate III
  • Working full-time
  • Looking for work
  • Not in the labour force, education or training (NILFET).
Bachelor degree
Most common areas of study:
Year 12 completers
  • Society and culture (22.6%)
  • Management and commerce (20.0%)
  • Health (18.9%).
Early school leavers
  • Society and culture (19.9%)
  • Health (19.6%)
  • Creative arts (18.5%).
VET certificate IV+
Most common areas of study:
Year 12 completers
  • Creative arts (18.3%)
  • Society and culture (15.4%)
  • Health (15.1%).
Early school leavers
  • Creative arts (22.4%)
  • Society and culture (15.8%)
  • Health (15.7%).
VET certificate III
Most common areas of study:
Year 12 completers
  • Society and culture (16.9%)
  • Education (14.4%)
  • Food, hospitality and personal services (9.2%).
Early school leavers
  • Health (17.1%)
  • Food, hospitality and personal services (16.6%)
  • Management and commerce (16.0%).
VET certificate I-II
Most common areas of study:
Year 12 completers
  • Mixed field programmes (14.2%)
  • Management and commerce (10.0%)
  • Agriculture, environment and related (9.4%).
Early school leavers
  • Mixed field programmes (18.1%)
  • Health (13.6%)
  • Engineering and related technologies (13.4%).
Apprenticeship
Most common apprenticeships:
Year 12 completers
  • Electricians (23.7%)
  • Bricklayers, carpenters and joiners (17.9%)
  • Fabrication engineering trades workers (10.2%).
Early school leavers
  • Bricklayers, carpenters and joiners (21.7%)
  • Electricians (13.9%)
  • Automotive electrician and mechanics (13.4%).
Traineeship
Most common traineeships:
Year 12 completers
  • Child care workers (26.6%)
  • General clerks (13.6%)
  • Sales assistants and salespersons (10.5%).
Early school leavers
  • Child care workers (25.7%)
  • Sales assistants and salespersons(17.5%)
  • General clerks (7.7%).
Full-time work
Most common occupations:
Year 12 completers
  • Community and personal service workers (22.3%)
  • Labourers (17.6%)
  • Clerical and administration workers (14.3%).
Early school leavers
  • Labourers (33.8%)
  • Community and personal service workers (15.1%)
  • Sales workers (13.5%).
Part-time work
Most common occupations:
Year 12 completers
  • Community and personal service workers (28.3%)
  • Sales workers (27.4%)
  • Labourers (11.7%).
Early school leavers
  • Sales workers (29.2%)
  • Labourers (25.3%)
  • Community and personal service workers (20.1%).
Not in the labour force, education or training (NILFET)
Most common reason:
Year 12 completers
  • Recreation (gap year) (37.8%)
  • Informal study or training (23.3%)
  • Unable to work due to illness (9.1%).
Early school leavers
  • Recreation (gap year) (26.2%)
  • Unable to work due to illness (19.5%)
  • Informal study or training (19.3%).

1 A total of ten post-school destinations were defined from responses to a number of items relating to participation in further education and current employment. This classification system is a hierarchical classification system, which prioritises education related post-school destinations over participation in employment. As such, it represents a young person's main destination since leaving school.

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