Employment skills development programs (ESDPs) cover a diverse range of activities aimed at re-engaging young people (aged 15–17 years), who have left school early or are at risk of leaving school. ESDPs can offer young people an eligible option for engagement during their 'compulsory participation phase'.

ESDPs generally offer informal education and training activities which prepare young people for employment or further training. There may also be some accredited activities that are designed to help young people become 'job-ready'.

As part of a program, assistance may also be offered to help young people:

  • find a job, traineeship or apprenticeship
  • enrol in a training course
  • return to school.


The Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (the Act) requires that parents/guardians ensure that young people born on or after 1 January 1991 engage in further education and training after reaching compulsory school age until they either:

  • gain a senior certificate, a certificate III or certificate IV
  • have participated in an eligible option for 2 years after they cease being of compulsory school age
  • are aged 17.

Eligible options under the Act to meet the compulsory participation phase include:

  • school education
  • vocational education and training (VET) courses
  • university courses
  • apprenticeships and traineeships
  • paid employment for at least 25 hours per week
  • departmental employment skills development programs.

The Act acknowledges that a parent/guardian is meeting their obligations if the young person is enrolled in and attending a registered non-departmental employment skills development program.

The Department of Youth Justice, Employment, Small Business and Training is authorised under the Further Education and Training Act 2014 to register non-departmental employment skills development programs.

Non-departmental employment skills development programs

Non-departmental ESDPs refer to programs that are not funded or delivered by the department. These programs may be provided by community-based organisations, other government agencies, corporate bodies or philanthropic bodies that run programs that include young people aged 15 to 17 years in their target cohorts. Non-departmental ESDPs can vary in length and content.

Having a program placed on the register of employment skills development programs helps to provide opportunities for young people to continue to participate in education, training and employment and also helps parents to comply with the law.

The Principles for employment skills development programs (PDF, 272KB) document has been developed to help organisations with interpretation of the relevant legislation and to explain the main features of an ESDP. These principles will assist organisations applying for recognition of a non-departmental ESDP.

Applying for recognition of a non-departmental employment skills development program

Read the Steps to applying for recognition (PDF, 530KB) guide to assist organisations in understanding the non-departmental ESDP recognition process:

To register, organisations must complete one of the following:

Frequently asked questions

For more information about ESDPs read the frequently asked questions.

Register of employment skills development programs

Programs that have been registered by the department are placed on the register of employment skills development programs (PDF, 542KB).

The register provides details about the programs and how to contact the provider.

Programs on the register provide young people who are not in school or employment and their parents with an eligible option for engagement during their 'compulsory participation phase' as required under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006.

Related information

Last updated 9 August 2023

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