DECIDING on a career can be a daunting task for many high school and university students.
Some know what path they want to follow from a young age, others find their passion in year 12 but some figure it out almost too late.
After a report released last week showed Bendigo had the highest youth unemployment rate in Victoria, local organisations said traditional traineeships weren't being taken up as enthusiastically as previous years.
The Bendigo Senior Secondary College careers and pathway team said the "Free TAFE" program had already helped highlight vocational learning as a pathway to a successful career.
Emily Findlay is two weeks into a plumbing pre-apprenticeship at Bendigo TAFE after spending more than two years into a nursing degree.
The 22-year-old said if a wider variety of career, training and study pathways were laid out to her when she was completing VCE, she would have been able to make a more informed decision and felt able to pursue the full-time job or tertiary course that suited her.
"I think there's almost a stigma against TAFE. That kids who don't want to learn as much or want a hands on job, are the ones that go to TAFE," she said.
"For me, I didn't feel TAFE was an option when I was in high school. That's comes down to me as well but it was how it was put across. If you did VCE, the place to go was university. And in the end, for me, that wasn't right."
Emily said it took her too much time to find a vocation she was truly happy with.
"It took a couple of years (to figure out) and it's been a big change and a lot of learning but I am enjoying it," she said.
"I was in nursing for two-and-a-half years, which was probably a year too long. I was over it by the end.
"Whatever I did next I wanted it to be more permanent. Most people I know are set up or on their way to being set up (with a career)."
Having completed VCE, she felt only university pathways were clear to her.
"The problem was when I went to school most people were made to feel that if you do VCE you have to go to university," she said.
When I went to school most people were made to feel that if you do VCE you have to go to university. At the time I was sure I wanted to go. But that could have been because it seemed like the only option.- Emily Findlay
"At the time I was sure I wanted to go to university and do nursing. But that could have potentially been because it seemed like the only option."
Ensuring all tertiary pathways and opportunities are clear for students is something the BSSC careers and pathway team work hard to do. They said this year had seen an increase in TAFE enrolments partly due to the "free course" scheme.
"The demand for vocational learning is on the increase as a very viable pathway to success," they said.
"We find it imperative that students meet at least once during Year 11 and Year 12 with a careers counsellor to discuss their pathway.
"It is okay to not have a clear idea on the exact career you are headed for after school. What is not okay is to have the attitude that school ‘won’t lead me to anything'."
The BSSC careers team said they are also working more closely with local industry and business to help find employment for students interested in learning a trade or establishing a career.
"We certainly recognise that ‘job readiness’ plays a huge part in the capacity to employ younger people," the BSSC careers team said.
"Often the college can assist with workforce needs in partnership with Bendigo’s apprenticeship providers and sometimes directly with the employer."
Following a report from the Brotherhood of St Laurence that showed the Bendigo region has the highest rate in Victoria, the BSSC careers team said they had found past students were finding it difficult to secure full time work.
"Many of the students we contact are working two or three casual jobs to try and have income at a full time level," they said.
"That’s where we utilise traineeships and apprenticeships as great avenues to success and have worked closely with apprenticeship organisations and business to support students to take up these positive entry level opportunities."
Bendigo TAFE chief executive Trevor Schwenke said TAFE was also engaged with local groups to find solutions to youth unemployment in the region.
"One way we are doing this is through our Skills and Jobs Centre which provides youth access to career and training pathways advice," he said.
"An additional $2.3 million being granted through the Regional and Specialists Training Fund will also allow us to deliver more courses in welding, plumbing, horticulture and disability following feedback from the local community and industry."
A state government spokesperson said the Free TAFE program, combined with collaboration with local businesses, would make it easier for young people to secure a job.
"Interest in our Free TAFE program going through the roof – more than 1000 students have enrolled at Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute," the spokesperson said. "We’re working with local businesses and investing in education and employment services to create connections and opportunities for locals.
"Through Jobs Victoria we are also delivering tailored employment services for young people in Bendigo who face barriers to employment so they can find work and keep it."
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