When Emily Reynolds finished her HSC at Cowra High School in2019, she decided to defer a Bachelor of Primary Teaching and start a traineeship in business administration. 

It’s a decision that has paid dividends for the 21-year-old who now has two TAFE certificates under her belt and is halfway through a Diploma in Business, while working full-time at Cowra Early Childhood Services.

“When I finished school, I was tossing up between pursuing teaching, psychology, real estate, and many other things. I was so undecided about choosing a career that I decided to apply for a traineeship because it suited so many of my skills and interests,” Ms Reynolds said.

“And I realised that no matter what I decided to do in the long run, a traineeship would provide me with a qualification, experience and transferable skills.

“It meant a risk-free trial in the business sector, with no student loans, and I could support myself while I decided what I wanted to do. And as it turns out, working in the business sector has been a dream come true,” she said.

Ms Reynolds is part of a growing cohort of bright young school leavers who are seizing opportunities to earn while they learn without accumulating a HECS-HELP debt.

According to research from the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER), there was a 114 per cent rise in the number of new apprenticeship and traineeship commencements, year on year to June 2021. 

In fact, as of December 2021, there were 220,000 Australians undertaking apprenticeships, the highest number on record since data collection began in 1963. 

Ms Reynolds’ message to year 12 students as they sit their HSC exams and plan for the future is that university education is not the only pathway to success.

“I think there’s a common misconception that vocational education is less ‘academic’ than going to university and this certainly isn’t this case,” she said.

“I look at what I’ve achieved over the past three years and I’m not sure I’d be in the same place in my career if I’d chosen to go to university.

“I’ve been able to work full-time in a community organisation, gain a qualification and save money at the same time. It’s a win-win for me,” Ms Reynolds said.

VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell said trainees like Ms Reynolds are a shining light for other school leavers who may be tossing up between university or an apprenticeship.

"Apprenticeships have so much to offer HSC graduates, including diverse career opportunities, positive job outlooks, earning while you learn and even a higher starting salary than many university counterparts,” Mr Maxwell said.

“It's a great to see Emily and so many others making the most of real-life vocational education and training opportunities and building exciting careers in industries that are crying out for highly skilled workers.”

For more information and advice about apprenticeships, visit: https://www.verto.org.au/hsc-apprenticeship-information