Barriers and facilitators affecting course completions by apprentices and trainees with disabilities
National Vocational Education and Training Research Program report written by Errol Cocks and Stian H Thoresen
People with disabilities can experience social and economic exclusion (Australian Government 2009; Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2011). Moreover there is low participation in the labour market by people with disabilities, despite recognition of the role of employment in reducing social exclusion (ABS 2009, 2010b, 2011; Australian Government 2009; OECD 2003, 2007, 2010, 2012). Apprenticeships and traineeships have been shown to be beneficial pathways for people with disabilities, particularly for people with intellectual and learning disabilities (Lewis, Thoresen & Cocks 2011a, 2011b), for obtaining qualifications and employment as they combine training and education with practical work. Although the outcomes among apprenticeship and traineeship graduates with disabilities are similar to graduates without disabilities (Ball & John 2005), people with disabilities are less likely to undertake and complete apprenticeships and traineeships than their peers without disabilities (ANTA 2000; Bagshaw & Fowler; Cavallaro et al 2005; Griffin & Beddie 2011; NCVER 2011c; National VET Equity Advisory Council 2011). This research report identifies the barriers to and facilitators of course completion, as reported by apprenticeship and traineeship graduates.
The report is drawn from the first-year survey of a three-year longitudinal study into the social and economic outcomes of apprenticeship and traineeship graduates with disabilities. A total of 404 graduates with disabilities completed the survey. Face-to-face interviews were also carried out with 30 volunteers from the survey participants. A smaller group of 85 apprenticeship and traineeship graduates without disabilities was also surveyed as a comparison group. Participants were recruited in two stages. Apprentices and trainees with disabilities who graduated in 2009—11 were recruited during the second half of 2011 through disability employment services (DES), group training organisations (GTOs), registered training organisations (RTOs) such as TAFE institutes, and state training authorities. Graduates without disabilities were recruited for the comparison group in early 2012 through group training organisations. The two-staged participant recruitment approach enabled the researchers to stratify potential participants in the comparison group according to gender, age, and apprenticeship or traineeship completion to the proportions among participants in the disability group. Satisfactory matches across these variables were reached between the two groups.
The research participants were not entirely representative of the broader population of all apprenticeship and traineeship graduates, which limits how broadly the findings of this research can be generalised. There is a significant underrepresentation of participants from Victoria in the cohort of research participants due to a bias in the recruitment strategy. The proportion of graduates with disabilities declaring an intellectual or learning disability among research participants is also higher than the proportion reported for all vocational education and training (VET) graduates. Despite the survey’s limitations, this is one of the largest cohort studies of its kind and provides valuable insight into the barriers to and facilitators of course completions as reported by participants.
The survey participants were asked to specify three barriers to and three facilitators of course completion, and responses were coded thematically across the disability and comparison groups. Five major themes were identified across the reported barriers and facilitators: resources; disability, health, and injury; employment factors; training and educational factors; and motivations, experiences and networks. Although the proportion of participants specifying no barriers for course completion was low, the proportion of graduates without disabilities reporting no barriers was double that of graduates with disabilities; 17.1% compared with 8.9% respectively.