TESTING TIMES: Sunraysia educators encourage students to check out their tertiary options.
By ESTHER MACINTYRE

SUNRAYSIA school leavers are being urged to plan for tertiary education and work in 2021.

Local schools are assisting Year 11 and 12 students prepare for the final term of what the Department of Education says has been “challenging” year for VCE and VCAL students.

“We are ensuring all students receive their VCE results before the end of the year so they can plan for further study or training in 2021,” they said.

“As part of the new wide-ranging Consideration of Educational Disadvantage process, every Victorian student will also be individually assessed to ensure fair and accurate results in this unprecedented year of school, so students’ can approach their exams with confidence.

“When students return to face-to-face learning in Term 4, schools will focus on supporting their mental health and wellbeing, as well as enabling them to reconnect with school and re-establish friendships,” the spokesperson said.

Mildura Senior College pathways advisor, Ineke Rogers, says: “We’re looking for jobs where kids can form a career for their future.”

The college is suggesting three options – to have a job lined up, to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, and/or to make university applications.

“Our main fear is that when we get to next year, if they haven’t applied to do something, they will be sitting around doing nothing,” Ms Rogers said.

“And that is not good for them, their health, and their future.”

The college’s principal, Belinda Hudak, says: “There’s still quite a lot of hope with our young people, and we’re trying to make sure they understand that the climate we’re in economically, and the studies that they’re looking to go into will still be very relevant and prosperous in the coming years, even though there might be some challenges right now,” she said.

“I do think there are some fantastic opportunities for our young people locally. There is a really bright future ahead for them, it’s just challenging to see right now what that looks like.”

Ms Hudak says if students are unsure, they can still apply for course and then defer if they are accepted and change their mind.

“If they are uncertain, they’re much better off applying and deferring than not applying at all.”

“But I think we really need to stay positive for our young people. We don’t know what will happen next week, let alone next year,” she said.

Sunraysia Institute of TAFE has a proposal for school leavers called “Bridge the Gap”.

SuniTAFE chief operating officer, David Harris says there are plenty of options, some with no cost.

“Come to TAFE, pick a course, particularly one of our free courses, and get a cert three or four in hospitality, business and accounting, anything,” he said.

“That would be something like three days a week contact, leaving them two days a week to get a part time job or have a bit of a break before they go to full time uni.”

Flexible learning offers a combination of online and in-person classes, including some night classes.
“Blended delivery allows you to do a lot of your studies online, so they can choose the mode that suits them,” he said.

There are options for young people not interested in study, too.

“You could get an RSA (Responsible Sale of Alcohol), do a barista course, or get your forklifts license,” Mr Harris said.

“Maybe you could get a white card, for construction.”

SuniTAFE’s main concern is that young people will lose touch, and motivation.

“Just apply for something, and if you change your mind you can always defer.”

La Trobe University has been actively engaging school leavers, too. Head of campus, Dr Debra Neal, said a virtual open day last term was more successful than past open days.

“We did a virtual futures day at the senior college in conjunction with SuniTAFE, just to ensure students knew what all their options were,” Dr Neal said.

“We had the same number of people attending the virtual opening day as would usually turn up on campus. We’re getting the feedback from parents and students that they don’t want to go away next year, and so it’s great that they have a world-ranking university, in their backyard.”

La Trobe has introduced a number of new pathways for young people worried about their ATAR score.

“We’ve introduced for the first time an alternative to an ATAR,” she said.

‘Achieve at La Trobe’ allows students to study a first year university subject, and get a score to use as an ATAR.

‘Prepare for La Trobe’ lets students study three subjects if they’re in VCE, six if they’re in VCAL, to effectively complete Year 12.