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Overview

The aim of this report is to identify school leavers in the years 1991 to 2000 with low or no qualifications, and to examine the extent to which these young people then become involved with tertiary education, skill-based training and government welfare. The focus is on young people aged between 16 and 24 years. Low school qualifications are recognised by the Ministry of Education and the Department of Work and Income as being no more than two School Certificate passes. School leavers with low or no qualifications are targeted by Skill New Zealand training programmes. For convenience, this report refers to school leavers with no or low formal school qualifications as school leavers with no qualifications.

Census data shows that at least a quarter of young people in the 15 to 24 age group are without any school qualifications. At the 1996 Census, just under 135,000 or 28 percent of young people aged between 15 and 25 years indicated they were without any school qualifications. However, many of those aged 15 and 16 years were still at school at that time. Focusing on those aged between 16 and 24 results in a lower proportion of 23 percent having stated that they had no school qualifications. This proportion is similar to Ministry of Education data, which recorded that between 16 and 19 percent of school leavers from 1991 to 2000 had no qualifications.

This report begins by examining trends in the proportions of students leaving school with no qualifications. It then looks at some of the paths young people without formal qualifications take. These include: undertaking further education through Skill New Zealand programmes or courses offered at tertiary institutions, registering for the unemployment or domestic purposes benefit, and entering the labour force. The analysis is based on available Ministry of Education data on school leavers from 1991 to 2000, tertiary enrolments from 1994 to 2000, Skill New Zealand administrative data from 1993 to 2000, and Department of Work and income data concerning registered job seekers from 2000. This report also incorporates Census data from 1991 and 1996.

Some limits of data that has been gathered for administrative rather than statistical purposes must be noted. Rules and procedures in collecting administrative data can change over time, and may not be apparent until later. This can lead to aberrations in the data. Care must also be taken when attempting to compare survey data with administrative data. Where survey data aims to include a representative sample of a population, administrative data only includes individuals who have chosen to seek a service. Comparing data from different administrative collections also requires caution. As each administrative data collection stands alone with its own differing purposes, it is not possible to track individual movements between them. Furthermore, comparing variables such as ethnicity between administrative data collections is difficult as different collection methods and even different questions are known to influence how an individual's ethnicity is classified.

There is a lack of information concerning young people who leave school and simply 'fall through the cracks'. These young people may not enrol for any training or further education, or qualify for any welfare, or register as unemployed. Similarly, little is known about school leavers with no qualifications who do manage to gain employment, and their subsequent experiences in the labour market. The extent to which a lack of school qualifications impedes the progress of young people in their transition from school to work must be of major concern to a nation focusing on developing an inclusive, innovative economy.

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