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Plenty of options for uncertain students to consider


THE winter solstice is becoming a distant memory, and minds of parents of Year 12 students, if not those of the students themselves, are turning to life after school.

While some children have a goal and life seemingly is mapped already, many are unclear about their future and even their likes and aspirations. Uncertainty, fees, lack of direction – as a parent, and work colleague of others in a similar situation, I know it can be a time of great stress. But also, one of great opportunity.

Perhaps the biggest stressor, and in my opinion the most misdirected stressor, is the focus on ATAR. While such focus sits well with those students pursuing a clear career direction, it’s much less valuable for those experiencing significant uncertainty.

Why? Because nowadays getting into university is open to pretty much everyone, not just those with high ATARs. If you doubt me then perhaps you have not looked at alternative pathways such as STEPS programs, RPL or even taking on a more general course with a lower entry requirement, and then upgrading through blitzing a GPA. And the interesting thing here is that by my (mature-age entry) experience at least, university is in some ways, easier than school – not because of the subject matter but because you deal with it on your own terms, not because you were forced.

Aside from university, opportunities abound. Apprenticeships are a well-recognised pathway into the workforce, but they are only one of myriad opportunities. These days you can get “tickets” in almost anything.

Combine Cert 3 in outdoor recreation with RSA, and forklift ticket and you are well on your way to a role on an island resort. Get a certificate in aged or disability care and the relevant “card”, and you are immediately exposed to two of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. Get a construction card opens up labouring opportunities, which through labour hire companies and contractors can be a great way to “have a look around”. I know of one 19-year-old who was making $1000 a week clear, four days on three days off – hard yakka, yes, but nothing like that to get you fit, outdoors and cashed up.

A really good way to go, if you can find a university that offers it, is to dovetail short courses and tickets so they build up into a diploma and then a degree.

While there is a lot of talk regarding a “gap year”, it is really worth thinking about what you might accomplish during that year.

Perhaps you want to have a break from study, or think about what career you would like to pursue. Maybe you want to save up for a car. Interestingly though, a gap year of 12 months might not be the best way to play it. If for example you work earning a market wage for 18 months in a 24month period, you can be classed as an “independent” by Centrelink.


That means you are not assessed against your parent’s income, and consequently might be eligible to receive youth allowance of $455 a fortnight, if you study away from home, plus maybe some rent assistance. Not sheepstations sure, but still useful. Such arrangements also apply once you have turned 22, which means working for four years, during which time you might have saved a reasonable sum and met some interesting people.

Another attitudinal mistake, I believe, is believing what worked in the past, or for you, is relevant today in all circumstances. Consider the auditor whom I overheard saying to colleagues, that his daughter wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts.

“There’s no jobs,” he said, fully forgetting the wide variety of apparatuses that underpin theatre, music, film and literature.

And forgetting the billions spent on making music videos, and online games and curating lists for Spotify and the like. In the commercial sphere, not everyone can head up Macquarie bank, and in the arts, supporting every Michael Bublé, Harry Potter and Minecraft are hundreds of people all doing legitimate jobs in their version of a legitimate industry. In our business one former staff member recently left for Sydney where she has joined a major publisher. In our Melbourne office, another young woman did the same.

Participating in a work-experience placement with Splendour last year, 2 SAE students were offered full-time roles with the organising company; a friend of my son is in demand as a cinematographer and he’s not even finished his degree yet. I just don’t think that the facts are sitting well with the mindset of that auditor.

And for those that do decide on going to university, there now exist so many opportunities to link interests with academia. Consider courses offering Bachelor of Business majoring in sports or event management, or combining law with the business of the performing arts, or for those aspiring to help people, combining engineering with international studies. Unlike 20 years ago, almost any combination is possible, and the opportunities for domestic and international placements and other participation are endless.

All of which brings me to what I think drove me to write this article. Gee I wish I was 20 again!

Originally Published – Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Rockhampton Morning Bulletin –