Now, new research by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has found that training later in life also helps reduce crime and boost savings for communities.
“In this study, we fill this gap in the literature by showing that increasing access to postsecondary vocational education and training does significantly reduce property crime, drug crime and crime against the person,” said the report.
“Importantly the crime-reducing effects of VET appear to be greater among prime and mature-age people (26-44) and among females.”
Moreover, the report found that that the rate of drug crime dropped by 13% when more people were given access to publicly-funded vocational education and training places.
The study, A Pathway to the Straight and Narrow, looked at the jump in TAFE and training course enrolments in Victoria between 2010 and 2013.
This period involved a 75% increase in school leavers enrolled in TAFEs and private colleges.
The report found the boost in enrolments was associated with an 11.3% drop in property crime and a 4.5% decline in assaults and other crimes against the person.
It also compared Victoria to New South Wales, where enrolments remained stable.
The co-author Cain Polidano from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research said access to training helped people who were out of work (or had limited job prospects) finally land employment, among other benefits.
"We found that for every extra dollar spent on VET, the community saved 18 cents in avoided crime costs, such as lost productivity, health and rehabilitation costs," said Polidano.
"We already know that investment in vocational education has widespread economic benefits, including increased employment and earnings, but policy makers should take note of the flow on savings for the justice and health systems.”
In particular, the report said that the discovery that VET participation reduces drug crime (especially among prime and mature age groups) is an important result.
“Although we cannot identify the mechanism of the negative relationship between VET and crime, our findings raise the prospect that drug rehabilitation programs may benefit from the inclusion of vocational training,” said the report.
“Without evidence on the spillover effects of VET, as provided in this study, it is difficult for governments to justify expanded funding in tough economic times.
“A case in point is the pairing-back of public-funding to VET that occurred in Victoria in 2013 following the expansion in 2010-2012.”
Plenty of studies have already looked at the widespread economic and social benefits of providing accessibility to quality schooling.