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Does the availability of vocational qualifications through work assist social inclusion?

Erica Smith (University of Ballarat, Ballarat, Australia)
Andy Smith (University of Ballarat, Ballarat, Australia)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to discuss whether the availability of qualifications through work‐based traineeships in Australia assists social inclusion.


Industry case studies, of the finance and cleaning industries, were undertaken as part of a national research project on quality in traineeships. The two industry case studies were analysed to provide data on social inclusion aspects. A general discussion on the “pros” and “cons” of gaining qualifications through work, from a social inclusion point of view, is included.


The industry case studies show many advantages of work‐based qualifications for people who have had disadvantaged economic and social backgrounds. The study presents a model showing how work‐based qualifications help to meet the twin social inclusion goals of employment and education. However in economic hard times, the need to have a job may rule out some people. Also, some doubts about quality in work‐based delivery may mean that qualifications gained through work may be of lower value than those gained at least partly through formal study.

Research limitations/implications

The models put forward are tentative, based on the findings in the research study that has been described and the authors’ earlier research. Further research is necessary to establish the social inclusion benefits of this means of gaining qualifications. In particular longitudinal research with disadvantaged people who have gained qualifications through this route is needed to evaluate whether their completion of qualifications through employment has assisted their broader economic and social engagement, and in what ways. In addition, research is needed to compare the quality and utility of qualifications gained through work and those through education providers as a poor‐quality qualification may be of limited long‐term use to an individual.

Practical implications

Work‐based qualifications are shown to be a useful investment of public resources. The research also analyses some shortcomings of this method of gaining qualifications so that they can be addressed by employers and training providers.

Social implications

The research establishes the social inclusion utility of work‐based qualifications, providing insights useful for education systems and social welfare organisations.


This is one of very few scholarly studies of the large‐scale use of work‐based qualifications.



Smith, E. and Smith, A. (2011), "Does the availability of vocational qualifications through work assist social inclusion?", Education + Training, Vol. 53 No. 7, pp. 587-602.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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