Vocational Education and Training (VET) in high schools has had positive effects on the retention of Indigenous students, providing important pathways into further education and the workforce. However, low-level literacy (and numeracy) skills can make successful completion difficult, especially for students who speak Standard Australian English as an additional language or dialect. This article describes research undertaken to inform the development of a second language and literacy needs analysis model designed for high school VET teachers to address the needs of Indigenous students. The study draws on second language acquisition research, which demonstrates the value of using tasks as the basis for language teaching syllabus design, with needs analysis as a fundamental aspect of this. The project centred on Aboriginal high school VET students from remote and rural communities in Western Australia, who speak English as an additional language/dialect. Data collected included: individual and focus group interviews, training materials, and observation field notes on the language and literacy practices in classrooms and workplaces. The major findings focus on the development of oral language (for both job-oriented and social interactions in the workplace) and literacy skills, as well as the need to overcome ‘shame’ and develop confidence for speaking to non-Aboriginal people.