‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

It’s a question we ask our kids from the moment they can talk. For some high schoolers, they have always known the answer – for others, the prospect of what they will pursue once they finish school can be a source of anxiety and confusion.

Harrison Guy, now 21, was one such student. When he left high school, he had no idea what he wanted to be. He tried his hand at university, studying teaching, but it didn’t take long to figure out that it wasn’t the career path for him.

I spent about a year doing labour work around my hometown until I came across a Facebook post asking for help moving a large grandfather clock,” says Harrison. “I responded to the post and have been working for the German Cuckoo Clock Nest at Tamborine Mountain ever since.”

As a watch and clock maker, Harrison loves working with his hands and relishes the ability to take something that hasn’t worked for decades and make it run like it did the day it was made.

“In my position, I spend a lot of time interacting with customers and working on the admin side of the trade,” says Harrison. “I believe both skills are very important parts to being able to work for and/or run a successful business.

“My main message would be not to stress about deciding right now as there are almost countless options and if you take your time you will find something you love.”

Harrison found his calling in clockmaking completely by chance, but not all school leavers are so lucky. haven asked Paul Bennet, general manager of MEGT’s Apprenticeship Network Provider, to give us the low-down on what’s available to school-leavers.

Q: Beyond traditional university degrees, what options are available to school-leavers that they might not know about?

A: Unlike decades past, today’s school leavers have so many new and interesting pathways that tread towards exciting and fulfilling careers. Following the Commonwealth Government’s industry support packages, the time has never been better for school leavers to consider an apprenticeship or traineeship. With significant incentives on offer for employers, we know an increasing number of businesses are looking to add apprentices to their teams.

The first and obvious benefit of an apprenticeship or traineeship for school leavers is the opportunity to ‘earn while you learn’. One afternoon an apprentice might find themselves in the classroom learning the theory of the trade they’re studying, and the next morning they’ll be putting it into practice alongside experienced and supportive colleagues. It’s a brilliant environment to develop in.

Q: Why might a school-leaver be more suited to these options over a university degree?

A: First things first, it doesn’t have to be either or. School leavers don’t need to decide on studying at university OR TAFE, it can be both. TAFE is often a terrific precursor to a university degree that will provide credits depending on the area of study.

The best part about undertaking vocational education training is that students are given the opportunity to apply their learning from day dot.  Sometimes, after year 12, school leavers are itching to start working and earning their independence. VET gives them the opportunity to do that.

The close relationship that forms between an apprentice, their employer and an Apprenticeship Network Provider like us means that the apprentice is well supported and mentored throughout their studies which we know results in strong completion rates. MEGT’s overall completion rates are higher than the national average.

Q: How might these options be better suited to school leavers compared to a degree? 

A: I recently spoke with an apprentice who had completed a business degree and had started work with one of the big four banks. She quickly realised her chosen career path would have her confined to a desk and working indoors for the foreseeable future. Keen to work outdoors, and with her hands, she undertook a trade apprenticeship. Now, with a degree and a diploma under her belt, she works in the mining sector and hasn’t looked back. Both educational experiences have set her up for a successful career and hold her in good stead for leadership roles.

Since COVID, we’ve seen certain industries emerge as somewhat COVID-proof. These include IT, healthcare and construction. Many of the jobs sectors experiencing high growth are taught at TAFE.

Q: Are there any negative aspects that parents or school-leavers should be aware of?

A: Really, it’s only a win/win. It’s an opportunity to earn while you learn and any challenges that an apprentice may have along the way can be sorted via an organisation like MEGT. We work with the apprentice and the employer to ensure it’s a great smooth and enjoyable experience for all.

Q: How do tertiary pathways like apprenticeships prepare school-leavers for the workforce?

A: Vocational education is, by its very nature, skills oriented. It’s geared towards ensuring the student is building on the skills they need to successfully work in their chosen field.

This type of learning really suits some people. We also know after years of applying themselves to the books, some school leavers are keen to get out and start working. While still learning, an apprenticeship or traineeship gives them the chance to enter mainstream employment.

Q: What are the most common apprenticeships?

A: The most common apprenticeships are trade-based, such as electrical, plumbing, construction and carpentry. Non-trades apprenticeships/traineeships include: hairdressing, retail, hospitality and business administration. With the sharp growth in the IT sector we are seeing increasing participation in IT traineeships amongst both school leavers and mature age students looking to upskill.

Q: What are some apprenticeships that school-leavers might not be aware of?

A: There are certainly emerging industries where we are seeing increased demand for apprentices/trainees. These include IT (particularly cyber security), aged care, defence and horticulture.

Q: Do you think university is still seen as a ‘go to’ option for school-leavers?

A: If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer then your path must be university. If you want to be a builder or electrician then TAFE is for you. If you’re undecided, and sitting somewhere in the grey, then an apprenticeship or traineeship via TAFE can be a great way to get a taste for what career path is of interest. Without doubt, if you’re keen to start earning once you leave school, while acquiring the skills for a long and successful career, then VET is a brilliant option. MEGT has careers counsellors and experts across all industries who are only too happy to help.



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