Skills Week: Career pathways for students approaching year 10


This week is National Skills Week in Australia. It’s a SkillsOne initiative in its 13th year and it’s dedicated to “raising the profile and status of vocational learning, dispelling outdated myths, and showcasing the attractive career opportunities for all Australians”.

National Skills Week presents a wealth of information for students heading toward year 10 and turning 17, when they can legally leave school. The information below details the pathways available for students who are considering their options for tertiary education: vocational education and training such as apprenticeships and traineeships, versus higher education (which would mean continuing on to year 11).

What is Vocational Education and Training?

Vocational Education and Training (VET) teaches people practical skills for gaining and sustaining employment, and thriving in the workplace. VET is relevant for people who are looking for work or already employed, including students. It’s an education system delivered by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) or TAFE, and it’s aimed at technical and hands-on fields, such as trades.

Students require vocational training to prepare for trades and 4.2 million Australians undertake VET each year. They learn skills for specific careers and disregard other subjects, receiving a qualification for their chosen trade at the end of the course.

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What is an apprenticeship or traineeship?

A trainee apprentice during national skills week

Australian Apprenticeships and traineeships allow students to earn an income, while learning skills for a trade and studying for a nationally recognised qualification in more than 500 careers and jobs.

The two qualifications are almost always referred to together but the main difference between traineeships and apprenticeships is that traineeships are available for more occupations, and they’re typically shorter courses of one or two years. Apprenticeships cover skilled trades only, and they can take three to four years to complete.

The benefits of an apprenticeship include:

  • Providing a clear pathway from school to employment
  • Earning while learning
  • Industry-specific training and qualifications valued by employers and recognised nationally
  • No HSC needed

An apprenticeship can be a great fit for people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Women in non-traditional trades, First Nations people, people with disability and the LGBQTIA+ community are welcomed, supported and mentored by the AASN (Australian Apprentice Support Network) providers connecting them with employers and managing their training.

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In addition, the Australian Government is currently supporting new clean energy apprenticeships in 40 occupations with up to $10,000 of additional funding and financial support as part of the Federal Government’s New Energy Apprenticeships program. The driving force behind training a skilled workforce to build the infrastructure Australia needs in order to meet 2030 emissions reduction targets and net zero by 2050.

Australian Apprenticeships can be undertaken full-time, part-time, or combined with school studies, known as a school-based apprenticeship.

School-based apprenticeships

School-based apprenticeships and traineeships (SBATs) allow students to work towards their chosen career while completing their HSC. SBATs are available to high school students in years 10, 11 and 12, and they combine paid work, training and school, resulting in an industry-recognised national qualification and credit towards the HSC (and potentially the ATAR).

Continuing to year 11

Since 2010, it has been mandatory for students to complete year 10 in all Australian States and Territories. They must then participate in education, training or employment for at least 25 hours per week until the age of 17.

The secondary retention rate in Australia in 2016 for students completing year 7 to 12 was 80.9 per cent for male students and 87.8 per cent for female students.

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For students weighing up their options for study and/or employment after year 10, year 11 could be considered the foundation for year 12 studies and the journey to university. It is the beginning of senior secondary school education and the first step towards receiving a Higher School Certificate (HSC) or Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).

There are alternative pathways to higher education and university but this route is the standard and enables students to continue their learning, hone skills for university study, and lay the foundations for specialising in a subject to degree level.

About SkillsOne

SkillsOne has been working with educators, the Australian Government, TAFE, and industry such as mining, healthcare, aged care, agriculture, automotive and beauty for 15 years. SkillsOne promotes Australia’s vast and sometimes under-exposed range of career pathways in traditional trades and emerging skills areas.

Its online content hub is a trusted resource for career advisors, students, and their parents or carers, showcasing apprentices and trainees as they share real stories of their journey, their experience, and the skills they’re gaining.

As adults looking back at the path we took, it’s easy to say that there’s no right or wrong answer – there’s just the choices we made and the places they took us.

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For today’s students attempting to predict their own futures, information is key. Talk to your teachers, consult with careers advisors, and reach out to people working in the fields you’re interested in. Ask questions, consider the answers, and have fun coming up with a plan for this next stage of your personal life – and the first page of your professional life.

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By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.