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 who have disengaged or are at risk of leaving school with an alternative engagement option for during their compulsory participation phase.

Generally, 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'.

ESDPs are either:

  • departmental programs, funded by the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training
  • non-departmental programs, offered or funded by community-based organisations, other government agencies, the corporate sector, registered training organisations or philanthropic bodies.

Register of ESDPs

Programs recognised by the department are placed on the register of employment skills development program (PDF, 344KB), which provides details about the programs and provider contact details.

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 under the Act 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 ESDPs.

The department is authorised under the Further Education and Training Act 2014 to register non-departmental employment skills development programs.

More information

For more information on employment skills development programs phone 1300 369 935.

Last updated 3 January 2024

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)