VET career pathways for school students living with disability: Working with employers




Research has shown that employers and industry are key partners in work-based learning and can hinder or enhance access to vocational education training (VET). Our capabilities approach focus concerns increasing employer understanding of what is involved in engaging in the work-based component of school-based VET for students with disability. It seeks to identify enhancers and barriers to both employer and student participation in work-based learning in workplaces and strategies to address the barriers. Using a qualitative approach, this interpretive research aims to answer the following principal question: How can employers, students, teachers and other influencers of student education and career pathway choice work together to increase opportunities for successful participation of students with disability in the work-based component of school-based VET? Employers and staff at organisations that support/place school-based VET students with disabilities were interviewed and inductive content analysis was used to code interview transcripts. Findings indicate that while communication and relationships are key factors in ensuring successful work-based learning placements, lack of understanding related to the spectrum of disability can be a barrier. Interview participants also identified workplace and policy barriers. Addressing the implications of our research findings will assist in increasing the willingness of employers to engage in work-based learning for school VET students with disability. This shift in practise has the potential to develop the workforce of the region and create greater breadth of opportunities for work-based learning in the community for school VET students with disability, leading to improved employment outcomes for people with disability.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Sarah Fischer, University of Tasmania




Atkinson, G. (2016, August 23). Work-based learning and work-integrated learning. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2022a, June 1). Effects of COVID-19 strains on the Australian economy.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2022b). Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, June 2022.

Bonaccio, S., Connelly, C. E., Gellatly, I. R., Jetha, A., & Martin Ginis, K. A. (2020). The Participation of People with Disabilities in the Workplace Across the Employment Cycle: Employer Concerns and Research Evidence. Journal of Business and Psychology, 35(2), 135–158.

Burchardt, T. (2004). Capabilities and disability: The capabilities framework and the social model of disability. Disability & Society, 19(7), 735–751.

Circelli, M., & Siekmann, G. (2022). VET for secondary school students: A research synthesis. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Clarke, K. (2014). Entry to vocations: Building the foundations for successful transitions. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Clarke, K. (2015). Tinkering around the edges, but ignoring the huge cracks: A discussion of VET in Schools for young Australians. Proceedings of 23rd National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference, Australia, 8-15.

Department of Education (2020, October 15). Accessible Island: Tasmania’s Disability Framework for Action 2018-2021. Annual Report on Agency Implementation. Tasmanian Government.

Ebuenyi, I. D., Rottenburg, E. S., Bunders-Aelen, J. F. G., & Regeer, B. J. (2020). Challenges of inclusion: A qualitative study exploring barriers and pathways to inclusion of persons with mental disabilities in technical and vocational education and training programmes in East Africa. Disability and Rehabilitation, 42(4), 536–544.

Eckstein, D. (2022, February 23). Meaningful jobs for students with disability From luck to business as usual. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Edwards, D., Perkins, K., Pearce, J., & Hong, J. (2015). Work Integrated Learning in STEM in Australian Universities: Final report: Submitted to the Office of the Chief Scientist. Australian Council for Educational Research.

Firth, J. (2020). Review into vocational and applied learning pathways in senior secondary schooling (Firth review). Victoria Department of Education and Training.

Jackson, D., Rowbottom, D., Ferns, S., & McLaren, D. (2017). Employer understanding of Work-Integrated Learning and the challenges of engaging in work placement opportunities. Studies in Continuing Education, 39(1), 35–51.

Jolly-Ryan, J. (2010). The Last Taboo: Breaking Law Students with Mental Illnesses and Disabilities out of the Stigma Straitjacket. UMKC Law Review, 79(1), 123–162.

Joyce, S. (2019). Strengthening Skills: Expert Review of Australia’s Vocational Education and Training System (Joyce Review). Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Kaye, H. S., Jans, L. H., & Jones, E. C. (2011). Why Don’t Employers Hire and Retain Workers with Disabilities? Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 21(4), 526–536.

Kilpatrick, S., & Fischer, S. (2023). VET career pathways for school students living with disability: Working with employers. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Kilpatrick, S., Johns, S., Barnes, R., Fischer, S., McLennan, D., & Magnussen, K. (2017). Exploring the retention and success of students with disability in Australian higher education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(7), 747-762.

Kirmayer, L., & Minas, H. (2000). The Future of Cultural Psychiatry: An International Perspective. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45(5), 438–446.

Lengnick-Hall, M. L., Gaunt, P. M., & Kulkarni, M. (2008). Overlooked and underutilized: People with disabilities are an untapped human resource. Human Resource Management, 47(2), 255–273.

Misko, J., Korbel, P., & Blomberg, D. (2017, September 1). VET in Schools students—Characteristics and post-school employment and training experiences. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

National Centre for Vocational Education Research. (2021). Total VET students and courses 2021.

Nelissen, P. T. J. H., Vornholt, K., Van Ruitenbeek, G. M. C., Hülsheger, U. R., & Uitdewilligen, S. (2014). Disclosure or Nondisclosure—Is This the Question? Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 7(2), 231–235.

Nussbaum, M. (2000). ‪Women and human development: The capabilities approach. Cambridge University Press.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Nussbaum, M. (2002). Capabilities and Disabilities: Justice for Mentally Disabled Citizens. Philosophical Topics, 30(2), 133–165.

Osborne, K. (2021, October 20). Prevalence and outcomes of workplace- based delivery in VET. National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

Osorio, F., & Barbazán, C. (2019). ‪La discapacidad como falacia diagnóstica: Constructos médicos y sociales. Identidad, cuerpo y estigma en las personas con discapacidad‬‎. Norte de Salud Mental, 16(61), 22–34.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Pitcher, G. (2020, November 20). Is disability architecture’s final taboo? The Architects’ Journal.

Regional Australia Institute. (2022a, August 26). Regional job vacancies reach a new high of 86,900.,900.aspx

Regional Australia Institute. (2022b). Regional Jobs Vacancy Map.

Sen, A. (1985). Well-Being, Agency and Freedom: The Dewey Lectures 1984. The Journal of Philosophy, 82(4), 169–221.

Shergold, P., Calma, T., Russo, S., Walton, P., Westacott, J., Zoellner, D., & O’Reilly, P. (2020, July 23). Looking to the Future—Report of the review of senior secondary pathways into work, further education and training. Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Australian Government.

Stone, D. L., & Colella, A. (1996). A Model of Factors Affecting the Treatment of Disabled Individuals in Organizations. The Academy of Management Review, 21(2), 352–401.

Thomas, D. R. (2006). A General Inductive Approach for Analyzing Qualitative Evaluation Data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27(2), 237–246.

Thoresen, S. H., Cocks, E., & Parsons, R. (2021). Three Year Longitudinal Study of Graduate Employment Outcomes for Australian Apprentices and Trainees with and without Disabilities. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 68(5), 702–716.

Tomlinson, M. (2017). Forms of graduate capital and their relationship to graduate employability. Education + Training, 59(4), 338–352.

United Nations (2006) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol.

Wynne Bannister, E., & Venkatapuram, S. (2020). Grounding the right to live in the community (CRPD Article 19) in the capabilities approach to social justice. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 69.




How to Cite

Fischer, S., & Kilpatrick, S. (2023). VET career pathways for school students living with disability: Working with employers . Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 14(2), 87–103.