New wave of HSC students are engaging with little-known subjects and getting big results
OLIVER Savage has spent his HSC year fishing, snorkelling and driving boats but he’s not bludging, he’s working hard on his marine studies course.
The 18-year-old student at Newman College, Port Macquarie, is one of a growing number of pupils ditching traditional subjects for Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses.
About 500 of the state’s 70,000 Year 12 students are tackling marine studies as the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) is reporting a solid increase in students tackling VET subjects, which give teens valuable work experience before they leave school. It follows the state government’s 2010 decision to lift the school leaving age from 15 to 17.
Plenty of students are happy to put the books aside and spend some time in the ocean. Picture: Lindsay Moller
And the commitment to nature can have some beautiful rewards.
“About 30 per cent of students are now studying a VET course,” BOSTES executive director of curriculum Paul Hewitt said.
“Hospitality, construction, business services and retail; they are all big employers.”
From nursing to electrotechnology and the study of ancient languages, there are now more than 84 subjects on offer in the NSW syllabus. Some offer a traditional path to university, others a different way to employment.
“A lot of people in Year 10 told me I had to go to university in order to get a good job and earn money,” Oliver said.
“But I wanted to have an enjoyable life. I love being out on the water and when I go to work on Sundays (for a boat tour company) it doesn’t feel like work.”
It’s not all splashing around.
But a love of water and adventure helps.
Some VET subjects can count towards an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), giving students the option of going to university.
Careers Development Association of Australia NSW divisional president Leonie Stanfield said some VET students had an advantage over students going to university.
“Even though the universities try to provide learning tasks that simulate work it’s not the same as having worked somewhere and having to apply real-life skills,” she said.
Since mid-2008 the youth unemployment rate has doubled to about 13 per cent, with about 300,000 youth out of work across the country. Young people aged 15-24 also account for about one in three people in the dole queue, according to the Centre for independent Studies.
Oliver is also studying electrotechnology, English standard, maths general 2 and Catholic studies, meaning he will not be attaining an ATAR.
He hopes electrotechnology will help him get into the Royal Australian Navy as an electrical technician.
“Getting an ATAR is not the be-all and end-all. There are plenty of people who have gone to university but not got a job at the end of it. The experiences I’ve had allow me to get a job that I love,” he said.
Katerina Theocharous, a Year 12 student from St Catherine's in Waverley, loves Latin. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Katerina Theocharous’ love of linguistics has extended to understanding the bedrock of European languages — Latin. The 17-year-old is one of about 100 students across the state, and the only one at St Catherine’s in Waverley, taking Latin extension. She is tipped to be dux of the eastern suburbs school.
“I enjoy being in a small class because you get to delve into areas you are interested in,” she said.
“It’s definitely worth studying, especially if you have studied Latin in junior years. I’m considering studying law and medicine, and both of those disciplines use Latin.”
Zac Monkley is a HSC student doing a VET course in Electrotechnology. Picture: Lindsay Lindsay Moller
Staying in school to complete his HSC has given Zac Monkley the option of changing jobs later in life.
The Newman College student is doing a school-based apprenticeship (which counts towards his HSC as industry-based learning) and works two days a week as an apprentice electrician.
He spends the rest of his time at Newman Technical College, Port Macquarie, where he studies electrotechnology, general maths, English studies and Catholic studies.
“If I decide to change career paths later in life I know that I have got a certificate saying that I have finished Year 12,” the 17-year-old said. “The great thing is that I have already got a job to go to when I finish school.”
Ana Volitilevuka, 18, is a 2016 HSC student at Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College, studying the Human Services, taking Aged Care and Acute Hospital option. Picture: Bob Barker.
St Vincent’s Hospital and the Salvation Army are two work placements Ana Volitilevuka has done in recent months.
The Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College student is learning how to work in both aged and acute care, as she works toward becoming a registered nurse.
The 18-year-old is one of only 800 students studying Human Services in NSW for the HSC.
“I wanted to go to university but found that there was an easier way, so I decided to go through college education,” she said.
“The practical parts of the course give me a great way into the industry.”