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Correctional Services

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Correctional Services sector, which is one component of the Corrections and Public Safety industry.

The Correctional Services sector currently employs over 33,000 people (with employment levels predicted to exceed 35,000 by 2024), and those working within the sector occupy a range of roles in prisons, juvenile and immigrant detention, parole services, correctional administration, and management. Businesses in this sector were estimated to add over $4.09 billion to the Australian economy in 2018–19. The imprisonment rate in Australia has been growing for many years, growing by 50% between 2008 and 2018.

The work environment in the Correctional Services sector is very diverse, and as the industry shifts from an institutional model to a rehabilitative one, new and updated skills are required of the corrections workforce to support and manage these transitions.

Vocational training is available for occupations involved in:

  • Justice services
  • Correctional practice
  • Correctional administration
  • Correctional management
  • Community corrections
  • Youth corrections
  • Custodial case management.

Nationally recognised training for Correctional Services is delivered under the CSC – Correctional Services Training Package.

For information on policing, see Police.

Information sourced from the Corrections IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast.

IRC and Skills Forecast

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

As detailed employment information for the Correctional Services sector is unavailable, employments levels of Prison Officers have been used as a proxy for sector-wide employment.

Employment levels for Prison Officers have increased overall between 2000 and 2019, with a strong increase from approximately 13,000 in 2015 to approximately 24,900 in 2017. This was followed by a fall to around 17,200 in 2019. Employment is projected to continue to increase to around 21,000 by 2024.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Correctional Services-related qualifications rose from close to 4,900 in 2015 to approximately 7,420 in 2016, followed by a slight decrease in 2017 to just over 6,850, then increasing slightly in 2018 to around 6,950. Program completions have gradually increased each year, from less than 1,680 in 2015 to almost 2,670 in 2018. Subject only enrolments increased significantly between 2015 and 2016, before decreasing over subsequent years to 740 in 2018.

Most enrolments in Correctional Services-related qualifications were at the certificate III level (73%), with certificate IV level enrolments making up most of the remaining portion (22%). The enrolments at the certificate III level were all in the Certificate III in Correctional Practice. Nearly all enrolments in 2018 had the intended occupation of Prison Officer.

The majority of enrolments in Correctional Services-related qualifications in 2018 were at enterprise training providers (93%), with enrolments predominantly funded through domestic fee for service arrangements (91%). Close to a third (32%) of students resided in Victoria, followed by 26% in New South Wales and 19% in Queensland.

More than a third of training was delivered in New South Wales (35%), followed by Victoria (32%) and Queensland (19%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements and completions fluctuated between 2010 and 2018. Commencements peaked at more than 500 in 2013 before declining to approximately 300 in 2015, followed by a brief rise to around 480 in 2017, then declining to roughly 390 in 2018. Completions also peaked in 2013 at approximately 360, followed by variations between 2014 and 2017, and an increase recorded between 2017 and 2018 (around 230 and 310 respectively). All apprenticeships and traineeships had the intended occupation of Prison Officer. Victoria reported the highest proportion of Correctional Services apprentices and trainees (63%), followed by New South Wales (17%) and Western Australia (14%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, the top priority skills in this sector are:

  • Cultural competence
  • Health/safety
  • Security
  • Digital literacy
  • Trauma informed care.

In addition, the top generic skills for the sector as identified in the Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast include:

  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management (adaptability)
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills).

According to job vacancy data, the top generic skills in demand in this sector are communication skills and planning, while the top two occupations in demand are Prison Officers and Psychologists, with the Geo Group Australia and the New South Wales Government identified as the top employers.

In an online survey of stakeholders conducted by AIS on behalf of the Corrections IRC, the top occupations in demand, as identified by respondents who had experienced a skills shortage in the last 12 months, were:

  • Corrections Officers
  • Correctional Management
  • Youth Workers (Justice and Custodial Officers)
  • Clinicians
  • Case Managers.

The main reasons cited by employers for the above mentioned in demand occupations, included:

  • Wages / salaries considered too low
  • Unattractive job / poor industry image
  • Geographic location of the vacancy
  • Competition from other organisations
  • Ageing workforce / current staff retiring.

The Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast highlights a series of key challenges and opportunities in the Correctional Services industry, including:

  • The transition of prison models from institutional reform to an increased focus on rehabilitative services. This shifting focus means the sector workforce needs more skilled staff who can offer education and training programs aimed at improved offenders’ physical and mental welfare.
  • Linking in the point above, a recent study in Australia indicated that offenders who participate in VET programs were twice as likely to remain offence-free five years after their release. Enhancing the soft skills of corrections staff so they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to encourage and direct offenders towards appropriate VET programs will have the lasting effect of providing more opportunities for successful reintegration into society, as well as increased employment prospects for offenders. Further, a report by the Productivity Commission highlights that 34% of eligible prisoners participated in accredited education and training courses nationally in 2017-18, with VET courses having the highest rate of participation (24%).
  • In addition to above, the soft skills of critical thinking, leadership, and emotional intelligence have been highlighted as being in high demand among corrections staff due to the wide range of people they interact with, often in high-tension situations. Cognitive skills, coupled with emotional intelligence, enable workers to build rapport and sympathy with offenders, allowing for effective communication and the resolution or de-escalation of conflicts.
  • A rising prison population and imprisonment rate will create large numbers of job openings over the coming years, and Australia’s total prison population has grown by 50 per cent over the past decade (2008–18). This increase has had a significant impact on the infrastructure and resources required for Correctional facilities across Australia. To accommodate the growing prison population and reduce overcrowding, a series of high-security correctional facilities are currently under construction. These facilities will require custodial and community Corrections Officers and Corrections staff. It will be important to ensure that those recruited are appropriately skilled to conduct their job effectively.
  • The increased use of new technology in the sector correlates with an increased risk of cyberattacks, therefore training designed to provide the workforce with the skills and competencies to identify, block or remediate against cyberattacks is imperative.
  • ICT and digital literacy skills are required to support the use of ICT in some correctional facilities where email and videoconferencing are used for legal proceedings, family visitation, and medical consultations. In addition, ICT (particularly through gaming technology) has been identified as benefiting rehabilitation programs through cognitive skills training as well as supporting literacy, numeracy and life skills.
  • The use of Passive Alert Detection Dogs (PADD) to support drug detection operations, assist in controlling bad behaviour in prisons, and high-security offender escorts means that dog handler skills are a continuing priority for the sector.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
    • 4421 Prison Officers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ08, viewed 1 November 2018 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202018?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 4 digit 4421 Prison Officers, 2000 to 2018, May Quarter.                                                                                                                                               

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • CSC Correctional Services Training Package
    • CSC20101 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC20107 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC20112 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC20115 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC30101 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30107 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30112 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30115 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30198 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial Corrections)
    • CSC30201 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial)
    • CSC30207 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial)
    • CSC30298 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Community Corrections)
    • CSC30301 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Community)
    • CSC30307 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Community)
    • CSC30398 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Administration/Ancillary)
    • CSC40101 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40107 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40112 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40115 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40198 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40201 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice (Custodial)
    • CSC40301 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice (Community)
    • CSC50101 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50107 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50112 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50115 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50198 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC60101 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management
    • CSC60107 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management
    • CSC60112 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management
    • CSC60115 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET Students and Courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

CSC – Correctional Services Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2018 commencements
  • 2010 to 2018 completions 
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Corrections IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2019, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2019, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2016 and June 2019 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • 7714 Correctional and Detention Services
    • Occupations excluding Clerical and Administrative Workers.
  • Employers
    • 4421 Prison Officers
    • 2723 Psychologists
    • 2544 Registered Nurses
    • 2726 Welfare, Recreation and Community Arts Workers
    • 1399 Other Specialist Managers
    • 7714 Correctional and Detention Services.
Updated: 21 Sep 2020
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