Let’s face it–money may not be everything, but it sure as hell dictates a lot in life. From funding our Netflix binge sessions to letting us move out of home for the first time, there’s heaps of fun and essential stuff out there that’s only possible through the accumulation of sweet, sweet cash.

This becomes way more apparent as we get into the final years of high school and start to exercise a little more financial independence. We get our first jobs and start to think what we want to do with the rest of our lives on the proverbial grind. Of course, money shouldn’t be the only thing you worry about–there’s other little things like overall happiness and mental wellbeing to consider–but it’s best to know what the monetary outcomes actually are for the options you’re interested in.

And that’s why we’re here to tell you about one of the quickest ways for you to start making bank: a fee-free apprenticeship.

You might not know much about them, but they’re the perfect way to start earning money straight away. This is because they combine education with work–a pathway where you learn the skills of a trade both on-the-job and with some formal training, all the while getting paid for it.

Granted, the salary of an apprentice is lower than a fully qualified tradie, but that’s because you’re still learning the ropes and receiving supervision and workplace mentorship. But no biggie–your income increases each year as you get more qualified until you’re earning close to what you would when you’re done with the apprenticeship.

Plus there’s the fact that you’re actually getting paid to learn in the first place while all your mates at uni are sinking into HECS debts. If you compare the average earnings of a carpentry apprentice with the typical cost of a Bachelor of Arts, it turns out the apprentice can earn around $129,000 over four years while the uni student is left with a $20,000 debt for their degree, putting the apprentice nearly $150,000 ahead financially.  

What’s even better is that the NSW Government has introduced fee-free apprenticeships, meaning there are no upfront costs for the student or the employer to take on an apprentice. With loads of different courses and apprenticeships available, it’s never been easier to start learning and earning at the same time.

Last year we asked you guys how you felt about different post-school pathways and heard that loads of you felt pride, excitement and passion from studying a vocational education and training (VET) course or apprenticeship. Here’s what one of you had to say:

“ATAR students put pressure on people like me who do a general VET pathway. It is quite annoying because they think people who do VET and trades are all dumb, but in reality, we have more life skills.”

The stats back it up, too: research released last year reveals that 91.2% of students enrolled in a trade apprenticeship find full-time employment after their training.

There are over 120 apprenticeship courses available in NSW so it’s easy to find an industry that’s suited to you. There are also heaps of organisations out there that’ll help you find an employer and guide you throughout the whole process.

Find more information about fee-free apprenticeships and check out what apprenticeship courses are available over here.