More than 200,000 Australian pupils are now doing vocational courses as part of their secondary studies. The number has been rising rapidly for the past seven years.
The vocational education and training in schools programme has been eagerly adopted by teachers in 2,000 secondaries in every state.
A growing number of schools are including vocational subjects as part of the school-leaving certificate. In fact 10 per cent of all vocational education and training in Australia is now occurring in school.
The approach varies between states but vocational students generally do work placements in industry. In New South Wales, this is compulsory and skills developed are assessed.
But the fact that each of the states and territories has its own administrative and accrediting arrangements means the system lacks national coherence.
Also, the amount of money education departments provide to schools to run vocational courses varies. In many cases, students have to meet some of the cost.
The federal government allocates A$20 million (pound;7.4m) a year to the programme while the federally-funded Enterprise and Careers Education Foundation provides an annual grant of A$25m. State education ministers say this is not enough but their demands for federal spending to rise by $40m have been rejected.
The Australian Education Union has investigated the programme. Its 160-page report says resourcing of vocational education is a significant issue in all schools, as is the workload demand on teachers.
The cost of running the programme in New South Wales was $75m in 2001, of which only $6m was provided by the federal government.
The AEU report is at www.aeufederal.org.auTafedocumentsVETISFinalReport.pdf