Backing Indigenous Students

Date —

10 Jun 2020

Industry Sector/s —
Vocational Education & Training

Summary —

A review of the data from the National Centre for Vocational Educational Research (NCVER) shows that independent vocational education and training programs support around 55 per cent of Indigenous students at all qualification levels.

Key Issues —

The important work of independent vocational education and training providers in supporting Indigenous students achieve their career and life goals has been highlighted by recent NCVER data.

The total number of Indigenous students was 138,250 in 2018, with some 75,705 studying at independent providers and only 38,110 (or less than 28%) studying with public providers.

Primary areas of study for Indigenous students include:  engineering and related technologies; agriculture, environmental and related studies; architecture and building; plus management and commerce programs.

The NCVER data show that the percentage of Indigenous students studying with independent providers has been relatively consistent in recent years: 

 VET Indigenous Students
   Public Providers  Independent Providers  Total*
 2015   44,700 (32.7%) 74,735 (54.7%)   36,515
 2016   43,165 (26.2%)  99,655 (60.4%)   164,955 
 2017    41,145 (29.9%)   73,630 (53.4%)   137,805
 2018  38,110 (27.6%) 75,705 (54.8%)  138,250

A report reviewing the participation of Indigenous students in the vocational education and training sector, including course completions and outcomes, noted in 2017 that while Indigenous enrolment in lower-level qualifications is higher than in non-Indigenous enrolments, there has been a shift away from enrolments in lower-level certificates, with increasing proportions of Indigenous enrolments in higher-level qualifications (Certificate III and above). This is a positive sign, given that employment rates are higher for those with higher-level qualifications.

Significantly, the NCVER report also noted that despite downturns in overall apprentice and trainee commencements in recent years, Indigenous people have a higher rate of participation in both trade and non-trade apprenticeships and traineeships compared with non-Indigenous people.

Independent providers support more than 80% of the 4.1 million students in vocational education and training across Australia.

*Totals don’t add to 100% as number of students studying at more than one provider type and school students are not included. 
Source: NCVER 2018 Total Vociational Education & Training Activity

Member Engagement —

ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance of individuals serving on the ITECA Vocational Education Reference Committee.

Further Information —

For more information on this issue please send an email to or telephone 1300 421 017.  Stay up to date via Twitter @ITECAust or via Facebook at

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