Beyond Learn to Earn – how policy can better support those who need it most

The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) have released current research into the Australian Government’s ‘Learn or Earn’ program following its implementation three years ago.

The AYAC report: ‘Beyond Learn or Earn’ shows that Learn or Earn is failing to properly support many young people to transition into work or further study. The report is based on in-depth interviews with 27 highly disadvantaged early school leavers, along with a wider survey of 159 youth workers from across Australia.

Download the full report here [PDF]

Current government policy strongly advocates that young people finish Year 12, then move from school to further training and/or to paid employment. To combat high youth unemployment and poor outcomes for those with lower levels of education, the Australian Government introduced the Learn or Earn program.
Under Learn or Earn, young people who have not finished Year 12 must be in education or training to receive income support payments.

This study highlights the human impact and common experience of the Learn or Earn initiative and lets young people themselves tell their own experience of Learn or Earn.
AYAC’s vision is for Australia in which young people are informed, empowered, encouraged and supported to participate in all decisions about issues that affect them.

Why young people disengage
The reasons young people disengage are varied and complex and show why engaging in education may be difficult or not the highest priority for young people not attending school at a particular time.
In this study, the young people who struggled the most to engage in learning or earning were facing the most serious and significant barriers to engagement – often leaving both home and school to escape violence, leaving school as a result of bullying and harassment from other students, mental ill-health and social problems, chronically low self-confidence and a lack of family support.
Systemic issues within the conventional education system – a perception of schools as authoritarian systems, a lack of support when it comes to helping young people with their wellbeing and self esteem, a lack of support for their own learning needs, an unqualified bias towards academic success, and a lack of focus on the creative or vocational subjects that build the skills many young people really want and need – also act as barriers to engagement with learning.