Best of both worlds: School-based Apprenticeship a life-changer for Western Sydney salon owner

In 2007, Sarah Ghawi was a Year 10 student with a dilemma. She had a passion for hairdressing and knew it was the career for her, but she also wanted to complete her HSC.

Undertaking a school-based apprenticeship would ultimately prove life-changing, with the positive impacts still reverberating 15 years later.

"I was really torn. My parents wanted me to stay in school, and I was worried I would regret it later if I left, but I wanted to start building my career, too. I didn't know what to do," Ms Ghawi said.

So she turned to her school careers adviser, who quickly introduced her to experienced vocational education consultant Abraham Ghossain to discuss a school-based apprenticeship/traineeship (SBAT). An SBAT allows students to combine HSC studies with an apprenticeship or traineeship, typically spending one day a week working and learning in their vocational field.

"I didn't realise there was an option that would give me the best of both worlds, and as soon as I heard about it, I jumped at the chance!" Ms Ghawi said.

"It enabled me to try out hairdressing with a supportive network behind me and still experience the personal growth that happens in those last years of school."

Fast forward 15 years, and Ms Ghawi is a highly-qualified, accomplished hairdresser and owner of Signature Stylz Salon in Western Sydney.

Reflecting on her career journey,  she credits the combination of school and vocational studies with her success.

A passionate advocate for the SBAT program, Ms Ghawi now presents to local high school students, sharing her journey in the hope it will inspire others to build successful career pathways.

"If I didn't do a school-based apprenticeship, I wouldn't be where I am today. So I want to help as many kids and parents explore this option as possible. It is the perfect solution to the student's dilemma and resolves any tension that may arise at home if parents want their child to stay on at school," Ms Ghawi said.

"My apprenticeship shaped my life in the best way possible. I am so grateful to Abraham Ghossain and his colleague Rhonda Stone for their support in making it happen for me.

Today, as part of not-for-profit apprenticeship provider VERTO team, Mr Ghossain continues to support apprentices and trainees to follow their career dreams. He says stories like Ms Ghawi's highlight the power of school-based apprenticeships and traineeships.

"School-based apprenticeships/traineeships are a fantastic choice for young people to start their career early while still obtaining their HSC.”

VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell encouraged students to look into SBATs.

“It's important to know that you don't have to choose between an apprenticeship and completing your HSC studies – you can do both, and as Ms Ghawi has proven, it can be a life-changing experience and and the start of something incredible."

For more information about VERTO’s full range of apprenticeship options, visit or phone 1300 4 VERTO (1300 483 786).