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Your next steps as High School Graduate

Now that your HSC is done and dusted – what’s next in life after high school? Though there’s that strong sense of achievement (and relief!) of finally gaining your diploma, it’s often daunting taking that next big step. But with enough careful thought and research, it doesn’t have to be.

Once your high school years come to a close, there’s typically three different pathways to choose from: pursuing further study, getting work experience, or taking a gap year.

Here at the AIICT blog, we break down the benefits and what to expect for each.

Pursue further study

A common decision among high school graduates is to dive in to the world of tertiary education. This offers plenty of economic benefit (especially for those with a strong career drive) as most jobs in the years to 2023 are predicted to require a post-secondary education, according to the Department of Education.

The two most popular pathways to further study are pursuing a university education, or exploring your options in Vocational Education and Training (VET).

What’s a university education like?

Attending university is often seen as the “traditional” choice for high school leavers; providing plenty of academic course options that encompass most professions. Students typically start out in undergraduate bachelor’s programs, with some pursuing further study upon completion – usually through a master’s or doctoral degree.

Most universities offer the social benefit of “campus” life, allowing students to meet new people, form connections, and effectively build on their network. These institutions also typically foster collaborative environments of face-to-face discussions, seminars, and debates; with the aim to broaden minds and sharpen skills in critical and philosophical thinking.

What is VET study?

VET study, on the other hand, focuses on the more practical, occupational skills one needs to find work. If you wish to pursue a field of more ‘hands-on’ (rather than theoretical) competencies, VET courses are designed to provide that industry-level training.

As such, they often give you real-world experience in your industry and a taste of the day-to-day tasks you’ll engage in. These programs also cover the general skills you’ll need for employment, including basic literacy and numeracy training.

Choosing between the two

Deciding between a university or VET education depends on your career goals and learning style.

As mentioned, university programs generally offer more theory-based, academic learning – best suited for more complex disciplines that rely on high-level knowledge and concepts (i.e. engineering, medicine, law).

In contrast, VET programs are ideal for those pursuing for ‘hands-on’, technical fields; such as design, hospitality, or IT. They offer “lower-level” qualifications than those offered at university, though are oftentimes more accessible and flexible in delivery.

While both lead to positive employment outcomes (studies show that about 73% of university graduates find employment 4 months after graduation; while 78% of VET graduates land a job after their training) – most VET courses have the advantage of equipping you with job-ready, industry experience.

Those who complete VET course can also use it as a pathway into higher education. Some VET institutions have credit agreements in place with universities, allowing students to transfer their credits they’ve earned into an undergraduate degree of their choice. The process will differ depending on your institution, so it’s important to check their arrangements.

Entering the Workforce

Some wish to dive straight into the working world after high school – and while it may be more challenging with a lack of post-secondary credentials, it isn’t impossible.

To kickstart your career right after high school, experts advise the following:

Compile a professional looking resume, and start small

While you may not have the greatest employment history, a neat, professional-looking resume is mandatory your job search. Use this as an opportunity to market your drive and passion for the field, as well as showcase any unique talents or abilities.

At this stage, it’s all about how you carry yourself. Make what little experience you do have appealing, and highlight any soft skills (such as a strong work ethic, interpersonal skills, creativity, etc.)  that can benefit the role.

Ed Mitzen, founder of the marketing company Fingerpaint, had hired over 1,000 people in his 20 years of experience in advertising – plenty of which were recent graduates.

Along with the above advice, he stresses the importance of starting small, and taking whatever opportunity (within reason) to get your foot in the industry door. Even if it’s answering phones, doing back-end kitchen work, or data-entry duties; if it’s an entry-level position in your field, you can inevitably use these to climb up the ladder.

Make the most of your contacts

Additionally, it’s important to make use of your existing network.

Plenty of people end up in their current role through who they know, rather than what they know. As a high school graduate with likely little to no experience in your field, use this to your advantage.

In fact, Payscale statistics show that 70-85 percent of workers find work through the magic of networking; so whether it’s family members, family friends, or fellow peers, tap into your connections for any available opportunities.

You never know who’s business might be short-staffed or offering apprenticeship opportunities – and a personal reference can help you stand out in the sea of resumes.

Take a Gap Year

If neither working nor further study feel like suitable choice, high school graduates also choose to take a gap year.

This year-long break allows new graduates to reflect on their career goals and life direction. The experiences acquired throughout a gap year often contribute to one’s maturity, independence, and worldly knowledge.

What can you do in a gap year?

Graduates can choose from a myriad of activities during a gap year – one of the most common being travel, either locally or overseas.

Visiting new areas of globe allows one to expand their cultural knowledge, engage in matters they’re passionate about, and even acquire valuable working skills.

Volunteer work is a popular choice among graduates, where they help communities in need or support a worthy cause. Marine and wildlife conservation, community development, and education area all common areas for volunteer work. Not are these contributions rewarding, but they also equip you with valuable knowledge in international development, fields that interest you, and skills in relationship building, communication, and organisation.

Others choose to gain work experience in their desired industry. This can be done both locally or while travelling, and have the benefit of providing experiential learning – or acquiring skills that aren’t quite as accessible in your typical classroom.

Some may simply wish to take a break; soaking up a new culture abroad, learning a new language, or taking time to reflect on future plans – whether it’s entering the workforce straight out of their gap year, or pursing that bachelor’s degree.

So, which road will you take?

Graduating high school is one of the first major milestones of life, though while you’ve finally toughed out this level – it’s time to plan for the next few.

As mentioned, taking a VET course is a popular choice among high school leavers, equipping them with work-ready skills in the field of their choice.

For those interested in pursuing an IT career, the Australian Institute of ICT (AIICT) offers vendor-certified training to kickstart your skills in the field. Our courses in include website development and cybersecurity, touching on the practical competencies you’ll to successfully work in an ICT environment. And best of all – it’s 100% online, so if you wish to travel or gain work experience while you’re at it; our courses allow you study according to your needs and schedule. Enquire today to start your journey in the world of IT.