HAWKESDALE P-12 College offers a comprehensive work experience program so students can get a “taste-test” of careers before they finish school.
The school also offers plenty of options for students in their final years, with Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and school-based apprenticeships (SBA) opportunities.
VCAL is a “hands-on” option for students in years 11 and 12 and gives them practical work-related experience as well as literacy and numeracy skills.
Like the VCE, VCAL is an accredited secondary certificate.
Principal Colan Distel said the school was “very flexible”.
“We are really proud of the fact that every year pretty much 100 per cent of students will be going on to further training or the workforce,” he said. “A number of years ago we made a conscious decision to up the focus on VCAL and not have it seen as a second class option to VCE. It’s about making sure the needs of the students are met.”
Year 12 student Nikki Milgate, 18, said she began a school-based apprenticeship in year 10 and is now completing the VCE as well.
Her SBA counts as a VCE subject, which will go towards her Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score.
Her apprenticeship is through Hamilton’s Rural Industries Skill Training Centre (RIST) in agriculture.
“I have a love for agriculture, so I thought why not do a school-based apprenticeship with RIST,” Nikki said.
“I started that in year 10 and did a Certificate II. Now in year 12 I’m doing Certificate III.”
She is also completing maths, English, biology and physical education subjects.
With her SBA she has set training days with courses that she selected.
“It’s very good with RIST,” she said.
“In the first year of the Certificate III, which I did in year 11, I did the majority of the courses. So I have less in year 12. It’s less stress.
“I can focus on my school work. I work on my own farm with my dad and mum. I get lots of experience. On our training days we have practical work as well. We go to other farms and schools.”
When she finishes year 12 she is planning to complete a gap year in the Australian Air Force.
“I aim to get a job in logistics in hardware,” she said.
“If I like it enough I can choose to stay in (the airforce).”
Nikki said if she didn’t like the air force, she would consider a university degree.
Ross Anderson, 17, is completing a VCAL program with one VCE subject in systems engineering.
He is currently working at Warrnambool Offroad as a school-based apprentice, and has a full-time position lined up for next year.
“With work experience I went to a few mechanical places and worked on tractors, cars and trucks,” he said.
“I have been offered an apprenticeship after year 12. The school process has got me that.”
He completes block trade training at South West TAFE, where he ticks off competencies for his first year apprenticeship, which will elevate him to the second year quicker.
Peter Arness, 17, is completing the VCE with a VET course in building construction.
“It all started out on the farm doing odd-jobs building,” he said.
He is completing english, maths, business management and systems engineering.
After completing VCE he is hopeful to get a building apprenticeship.
Peter’s mother Robyn said Hawkesdale College offered a great work experience program, which gave students plenty of opportunities to try different career options.
“That is the best thing our school does,” she said.
“It opens up so many doors and experiences. Not many kids get to choose different occupations and have a go and work out what they like and what they don’t.”
Hawkesdale offers three weeks of work placement, with one week in year 10 while in year 11 students complete two weeks of work experience in Melbourne, at two different workplaces.
Usually, students at other schools only complete one week of work experience in year 10.
Mrs Arness said the extra placements gave students life skills.
“Those two weeks in Melbourne are invaluable,” Mrs Arness said.
“Our kids go down and learn how to use buses and trams, usually for the first time.
“Some kids were going out to the outer suburbs of Melbourne. It’s a huge step for the kids but it gives them a big chance to see whether they like the city or not.
“The school’s work experience program is top-notch. A lot of teachers put a lot of effort into making it happen.”
Mrs Arness older daughter Belinda also completed a varied VCE program at the school in years 11 and 12.
Belinda is now in her third year of a commerce/science double degree at Latrobe University.
“The work experience gave her the confidence to put in for a Melbourne uni,” she said.
“It only came because of that. It should be taken up by so many schools, it’s a fantastic program.”
South West Local Learning Employment Networks Lyn Lanman said the program was exemplary.
“The challenge is to develop a final years program within a prescribed setting that will cater for the needs of each unique student,” she said. “Career counselling with individual planning is vital to support students and parents with the best possible program. Subject selection is the second most important organisational factor affecting decision making in schools after enrolments. It dictates staffing and timetabling decisions for the following year.”