Australia has a healthy labour market, and this applies to the young people as well. The overall unemployment rate was 5.6% in 2017, which was below the OECD average of 5.8%. The share of youth (aged 20-24 years) not in employment, education, or training (NEETs) stood around 12% in 2017, which compares favourably to the OECD average of 15%. At the same time, globalisation, automation, and digitalisation are changing labour market demands, as well as the skills required of people entering employment. As the Australian job market evolves, it will be critical to ensure that the education system is well-connected to industry to facilitate smooth transitions from school to work.

This report sheds light on a number of key lessons and policy principles for better engaging Australian employers in skills development opportunities at the local level. Within the vocational education and training system, apprenticeship programmes mix on the job training with classroom-based learning. Expanding the availability and take-up of quality apprenticeship programmes and other work-based training opportunities can provide employers with a skilled workforce that is more agile in a rapidly evolving global economy. It can also support the creation of new employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups and contribute to Australia’s regional economic development objectives by building the competitiveness of local growth sectors.

Broadening access and participation to apprenticeship programmes requires close collaboration and co-ordination at the local level between government, businesses, training providers, and workers. Case studies from New South Wales, Tasmania, and Queensland presented in this report illustrate the role that local leaders can play in shaping the education and training system to better respond to key growth sectors of the economy. They also show how apprenticeship programmes can better link disadvantaged groups, such as youth and Indigenous people, to good quality jobs.

This report is part of the Programme of Work of the OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Programme. Created in 1982, the LEED Programme aims to contribute to the creation of more and better jobs in more productive and inclusive economies. It produces guidance to make the implementation of national policies more effective at the local level, while stimulating innovative practices on the ground. The OECD LEED Directing Committee, which gathers governments of OECD member and non-member countries, oversees the work of the LEED Programme. The main findings of the report were discussed at the 74th session of the OECD LEED Directing Committee on 15-16 November 2018. The final report was approved by Delegates at this session: CFE-LEED (2018)13.

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