Vocational education at school

Apprentices on worksite

At a glance:

  • Staying on in Year 11 and 12 isn't just for kids planning to go to university.
  • Vocational education (VET) courses include school-based apprenticeships, traineeships and workplace learning.
  • VET courses can contribute to a HSC and university entry.
  • Choose subjects your child will enjoy and is most likely succeed in.
  • The best plan is one that keeps your child's future options open.

Many kids now use Year 11 and 12 to get a headstart on a traineeship, an apprenticeship or other valuable industry experience.

Staying on to complete the HSC isn't only a good idea for students who are planning university studies.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses can be taken as part of their senior studies, so your child may want to undertake a school-based apprenticeship or traineeship while doing the HSC.

There are also options to do workplace learning  in Years 11 and 12, which means kids who previously would have left in Year 10 now are able to stay at school while they get practical skills.

Almost all VET courses in schools lead to nationally recognised (Australian Quality Training Framework or AQF) qualifications, either certificates or statements of attainment.

In fact, one in three students in Years 11 and 12 in NSW are currently undertaking a VET course, which can work towards an accredited industry qualification, the HSC and entrance to university.

VET studies are also a great alternative for those who aren't sure what they want to do after school.  They can explore a career, get some experience under their belt, and keep all their options open.

Choose subjects based on enjoyment or career?

When helping kids choose subjects in Year 10, Cheryl Russell from the NSW Board of Studies says we should encourage our teens to make choices that emphasise their strengths and interests.

"If you encourage your child to choose subjects they're good at, interested in and can see themselves using in the future, they're more likely to do better in the HSC, and be clearer about their work and study choices when they leave school," Cheryl says.

Sue MacLean, with the Department of Education and Communities, says subject selection in Year 10 can be an exciting opportunity for students to focus their aspirations.

"It's a good idea to start by looking at those subjects your child is most interested and successful in," Sue says.  "They should also test their suitability for different careers by gaining work experience in the area, talking to people in the industry and exploring the myfuture website. "

Who can help?

Subject selection can seem a bit complicated. Sue says the Student Pathways Survey / Plan, which students can access through their school portal,  can help kids figure out their career preferences and show them how to develop a flexible career plan.

You should also make an appointment to sit down with your teenager and the school careers advisor,  to discuss how to make Year 11 and 12 count towards a career pathway.

Subject selection at a glance

Your child will be able to select a mix of subjects from three types of courses:

  1. Board developed courses
  2. Board developed Industry Curriculum Framework courses,which can contribute to the Higher School Certificate and can contribute to the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).
  3. Board endorsed (non-framework) courses, which contribute to the  Higher School Certificate, but not to the ATAR.

To achieve an HSC your child will need to complete at least 12 units in Year 11 and at least 10 units in Year 12

The HSC is made up of two kinds of marks:

  1. school-based assessment – based on assessment of tasks and tests, and
  2. the examination mark – based on the HSC examination.

Together with the school's career support team, you can help your child choose subjects that will give them the best possible headstart on their future career.


See a great example of school-based traineeships from SkillsOne's Bright Futures campaign


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