Start your career at high school

If you're lucky enough to know what you want to do before you leave high school, why should you have to wait until after the HSC to get started?

The way the education system has traditionally operated is that students study general subjects in high school and then start learning the specific skills they require to get a job later on at TAFE or university. But what if, having decided at 16 you want to be a chef or mechanic or plumber, you could start learning industry-specific skills and get some practical experience while still at school?

Not only is that possible, but school-based traineeships and apprenticeships are now being offered throughout Australia. In NSW alone, there are currently 2,176 students undertaking them in everything from baking and hospitality to locksmithing and signcraft.

Pupils at Singleton High School in the Hunter Valley are just some of those getting a head start on their careers. In February, a number of Year 11 students interested in nursing started a Health Services Assistance Certificate III at Singleton Hospital, following in the footsteps of another student who pioneered the program in 2012 and is now in her second year.

The students have this opportunity thanks to a partnership between their school, their local hospital, TAFE NSW and the Australian Business Apprenticeships Centre. The students work a shift at the hospital one day a week followed by a TAFE theory lesson and also work for a week during school holidays. The students are required to complete 100 shifts over two years and, as well as gaining valuable work experience, they also get paid for the shifts they do.

A school-based traineeship is treated much like any other subject, with students receiving marks that count towards their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) at the completion of Year 12. At that point, students have an entry-level qualification that will let them go into the workforce or undertake further study at TAFE or university, having already mastered the basics. Research from the UK indicates students who've had quality interactions with employers of the kind facilitated by a school-based traineeship or apprenticeship are much more likely to be in employment or training at age 19-24 than their peers who haven't.

To find out more about undertaking a school-based traineeship or apprenticeship visit TAFE NSW.