Employment skills development programs (ESDPs) are aimed at re-engaging young people (aged 15–17 years) who have left school early or are at risk of leaving school. ESDPs offer young people an alternative engagement option during their compulsory participation phase.

ESDPs provide informal education and training pathways that lead to employment, further training or a return to school. There may be some accredited activities within the program designed to help young people become 'job-ready'.

Compulsory participation phase

The compulsory participation phase begins once a young person turns 16 or completes year 10. Under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (the Act) parents/guardians must ensure young people in the compulsory participation phase are either learning or earning, 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
  • or
  • are aged 17.

Eligible options during the compulsory participation phase may include:

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

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

The Department of Employment, Small Business and Training is authorised under the Further Education and Training Act 2014 to register non-departmental ESDPs.

Non-departmental ESDPs

These programs are not funded or delivered by us, and may be provided by community-based organisations, other government agencies, corporate bodies or philanthropic bodies who include young people aged 15 to 17 years in their target cohorts.

The Principles for employment skills development programs (PDF, 651KB) helps organisations with interpretation of the relevant legislation and to explain the main features of an ESDP. These principles will assist you in applying for recognition of a non-departmental ESDP.

Apply for recognition of your ESDP

Read the Steps to applying for recognition (PDF, 707KB) guide to understand the non-departmental ESDP recognition process:

To register, you must complete one of the following:

Frequently asked questions

For more information about ESDPs read the frequently asked questions (PDF, 649KB).

Register of ESDPs

Programs registered with us are placed on the register of employment skills development programs (PDF, 344KB), which provides details about the programs and provider contact details.

More information

Find specific information for young people and their parents about ESDPs.

Last updated 3 January 2024

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