Options for transitioning out of school and into work

Last updated


Having a job can grow your social circle, increase connection with your community, give you more financial independence, improve your health and wellbeing and give you a stronger sense of identity and self-worth.

Key points

  • Planning for your transition from school to employment should start early

  • You can receive a range of support to build the skills and confidence you need to enter the workforce

  • The School Leaver Employment Services funding can include work experience, skills training and travel training to set you up for work

People with disability can experience barriers to employment that other students finishing school do not face, including fewer jobs being available to suit them and even discrimination from potential employers.

But if employment is something you want to strive for you can get a wide variety of support to overcome those barriers and transition from school into a job.

Planning your transition

It is important that your family and support network know early on that you want to transition out of school into employment, as it can take a lot of planning and coordination to make sure you get the best supports available to reach your goal.

Your employment goal can be talked about at your National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) planning meeting and this can happen before your final year of school – some providers even suggest starting to think about your future career in Year 9 so that you have time to get the planning, funding and support in place.

It can be helpful to bring along school reports, reports by health professionals or work assessments to the meeting so your coordinator can see what you’re good at and where you might need more help.

Tips for what to think about when you are planning your future career include:

  • Consider your strengths and interests which might help to show what career would match for you
  • Don’t limit your options – have high expectations of what you can achieve with the right support so that you can achieve the best outcome
  • The challenges you may face – a job can still provide challenges for you, as long as you are able to learn how to cope or overcome them
  • What type of work would suit you best – it could be an internship, apprenticeship or traineeship, casual, part or full-time work
  • Get as much information as you can about what options you have so that you don’t miss out on any opportunities
  • Involve anyone you think can help you – including school staff, family, employment placement officers, tertiary institutions and Disability Employment Services (DES)
  • Remember your plans can change, for example, if you try work experience in a particular industry and find out it is not suited to you there is the option to try something else

NDIS Core and Capacity Building funds in your plan can be used for developing work skills and for supports to assist you with part-time employment or volunteer work.

Your school could also help you to make a transition plan which includes how you might be supported to finish your school certificate and what subjects you might take in the last years of school – as some subjects can involve more practical assessments, volunteering or work experience which will support your employment goal.

Thinking about what kinds of work or volunteering you can do after school or on weekends can help you to gain work experience before you leave school and put you in a better position to gain work after school.

Your pathway to a job could also include training to prepare you for an apprenticeship or traineeship, self-employment, employment with a Disability Employment Service, a place in an Australian Disability Enterprise, a volunteering role, or skill building so you can be independent while job-seeking.

For pathways out of school which include further study, read our article, ‘Transitioning into further study after school

School Leaver Employment Support (SLES)

The NDIS funds School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) for young people with disability to develop the skills and confidence they need to move from school to employment.

You can also receive help to plan your pathway to employment and realise your potential, and this help can be individually suited to your employment goals.

The supports can begin in your last year of school or after you leave and are arranged through a service agreement with a provider which includes an activities schedule.

You can receive this support in one-on-one settings, as part of a group, or sometimes online but they are always tailored to your specific needs and goals.

The main forms of these supports are work experience, workplace skills training and skills for engagement in work, for example, travel training.

Providers of SLES are required to track your progress towards your goals and give you reports about how you are going, which you can take to your NDIS planning meetings.

If you need help to choose your SLES provider, the NDIS has a comparison sheet found on the Leaving School page that you can fill out with details from the providers you contact to see which one best suits you.

Work Experience

A work experience placement can help you to see what it is like to be in a workplace for a certain amount of time.

Although work experience is usually unpaid, it can be a good way for you to learn about the everyday activities which happen in that workplace.

You may also be able to find a work experience opportunity that is flexible around your needs – for example, you might be able to attend the placement for a few hours on one day a week right up to full time for several weeks.

While work experience helps you to build your skills, it might also show the employer you are with what you can do and how you might be a valuable worker for them.

You can do work experience while you are still in school or after you finish school and you might be able to find more than one work experience opportunity – there is no limit to how many you can do.

To find work experience options, you will be able to get help from your SLES provider – who will have connections with businesses and organisations which might fit your strengths and interests – or you can also talk to people in the community who you or your family know about whether the businesses they own or work for might give you an opportunity.

Skills training

There are some skills that you can learn better in a workplace or while volunteering than in a classroom and this is where skills training can be helpful.

Skills training may be included in your SLES if it is the best way of helping you to gain employment and it can be integrated as part of work experience or volunteering, delivered by a vocational trainer or in a training program.

The types of skills which you might focus on learning include:

  • Money handling
  • Customer service
  • Time management
  • Communication for work
  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict management
  • Teamwork
  • Using technology found in a specific workplace, for example, a water timer in a gardening centre

Travel training

Support to find and keep a job can include travel training, which provides help to learn how to get to your workplace safely and comfortably.

Usually, travel training is provided by a support worker helping you to plan your journey by reading timetables or other information and travelling with you in a taxi or on public transport.

When you are confident enough to travel to work independently by calling your own taxi, catching the right public transport or crossing the road in a safe and relaxed way, you will be able to keep attending work by yourself.

You might also be able to receive funding to help you pass your driver’s licence test, if that is related to your goals or is an important part of achieving your employment goal.

Related content

School transitions for children with autism
Teenagers 13-17 years
Liam’s story: how plan support can help you too