The pandemic has changed the south-west's education landscape with one school reporting a higher number of students not completing secondary studies than ever before.
But the emerging trend didn't mean it was a bad thing with one principal finding most were instead taking on traineeships, apprenticeships or entering the workforce.
Low unemployment and high demand for workers has played a role in the change.
As another south-west principal said, schools and students were still adjusting to "a new normal".
Even South West Institute of Tafe has noticed changes in the education space and is looking to adapt the way it offers its courses - but points out that changes were not being driven by secondary school students.
While there are positive signs and trends, South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said she was worried about young people's education.
"I think we've got a bigger problem than what we realise," she said.
Ms Britnell said she had spoken to parents of teenagers who say their children are struggling to re-engage with their studies, particularly boys.
"There's so many young people who I'm hearing are not re-engaging in school, they're not re-engaging in sport," she said.
"I'm very, very worried about it. It was such a shock to go around the schools, I'm still recovering from what I've heard. I'm very concerned.
"It's the pressure that the teachers are under, it's the challenge that the kids are now facing because they've developed totally new habits and the classroom is just not cutting it the way it was."
One south-west principal said catching up students who had fallen behind was proving challenging for teachers, with staff reporting classrooms were not as far advanced in courses and content at this time of the year as they normally were or would like to be.
The principal said there was increased levels of uncertainty among young people about what it was they wanted to do and around whether they wanted to pursue tertiary study.
And it was hard to determine if it was just COVID-related or a natural phenomenon but they were experiencing "an increased number of students exiting school earlier than we would normally see".
"There are always those who leave before they finish their course of study but we think that number has increased at the moment and has been higher throughout 2022," the principal said.
"We have seen more young people go into the workforce, especially into apprenticeships than before.
There are always those who leave before they finish their course of study but we think that that number has increased at the moment and has been higher throughout 2022.- south-west principal
"We haven't seen anybody leave school for the sake of leaving, any young person that we've seen leave school before they've completed their course of study has been going into one form of training in traineeships, apprenticeships or workforce."
The principal said the higher-than-usual number of young people accessing apprenticeships was actually a really good outcome for those young people.
"That's not a negative that they're leaving school before they finish their school studies," the principal said.
WestVic Group Training CEO Dean Luciani said there had been a 10 to 15 per cent increase in apprenticeships and traineeships year-on-year over the past five years for school leavers.
He said generally speaking, the south-west had been achieving a youth unemployment rate about two per cent below the national average over the past three to five years, and was now hovering around 4.4 per cent.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan, and former education minister, said when there was near to full employment like we have now, it led to more school leavers heading directly into the workforce rather than Tafe or university. "One of the challenges is to ensure as much as possible is to do work-based learning for these school leavers," he said.
Tafe acting CEO Jodie Hill said there had been a shift in demand for on-the-job training in the current climate of high employment.
"South West TAFE is working to evolve delivery across a range of courses so that more qualifications can be gained in an on-the-job traineeship model, rather than classroom-based training," she said.
"Certainly we're rising to the challenge of delivering a little bit differently to meet the market."
But Ms Hill said the trends hadn't been driven by secondary school kids.
"This has been driven by market and the fact that we have low unemployment and industries looking to employ people," she said.
Uncertainty at the start of the year, probably due to COVID, meant enrolments peaked later than it typically would, Ms Hill said but mid-year enrolments were looking a lot steadier.
Student contact hours are sitting at 11 per cent lower in May compared to the same time last year.
"While applications are trending a little lower overall than previous years we have seen a promising upswing in applications through May and June as we approach mid-year enrolment," Ms Hill said.
"Given the context of the uncertain of the world we're in, it's a small dip and better than we would have expected."
South West Local Learning and Employment Network chief executive officer Emily Lee-Ack said the ripple effect of the last few years was continuing to be a challenge for schools, for parents and the community.
"We are actively seeking ways to make sure young people have all the supports they need," she said.
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