When we think of the conventional route through school and towards success, we don’t often think of VET (vocational education and training). We think of getting a good ATAR, going to university for four years, getting an unpaid internship, and eventually landing that job. Seems kinda sus, right? Sure, loads of successful people went through and can be thankful for their university degrees, but it would be unwise to think that it’s the only viable path out there. Sometimes it’s not even the best path available to you. With our data showing that 75% of students don’t even consider doing an Australian Apprenticeship after school, this is especially worrying.

You’ve heard that old saying that’s commonly attributed to Einstein about judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree. Overused and kitsch as it is, it does point towards a truth about education. Not everyone is going to have strengths in the same areas, and that means not everyone is going to be suited to university. But this isn’t a bad thing. The following people have used VET to work their way into successful roles – roles that are prestigious, roles that are demanding, and roles that allow them to follow their passion. 

International Sales and Business Development Manager / Aircraft Maintenance Engineer – Rachel Dudok

Rachel spent three years at university studying an engineering degree before deciding she wanted to ditch uni for something more practical. Looking for a way she could learn on-the-job, she started a Certificate IV in Aeroskills (Avionics) and was one of only four students that were offered an apprenticeship with QANTAS.

With QANTAS she worked as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, then topped off her qualifications with a Diploma of Management and took on a role with Aviation Australia as their International Sales and Business Development Manager. Pretty good for never having finished a degree.

Accounting – Nicola Howe

Already working as an accounts manager for Poolwerx, Nicola approached her employer regarding a possible traineeship to develop her skills and career at the company. They agreed, and she completed a Certificate IV in Financial Services (Accounting) through an on-the-job traineeship.

Within her role she was able apply what she learnt by streamlining a number of financial procedures and supervising administration staff in junior accounting tasks. Impressed with her success and determination, her employer has gone on to sponsor her in a Diploma of Accounting, furthering Nicola’s ambition of becoming a Certified Practicing Accountant.

Broadcast Trainee at SBS – Tyrone Pynor

Tyrone actually started his training with a Certificate II in Business Services with National Australia Bank (NAB) through an Australian School-based Apprenticeship. With a newfound knowledge of the array of courses on offer through VET, he discovered he could pursue something that fuelled his creative side. So, after graduating from high school, Tyrone took up a Certificate IV in Screen and Media.

Now a Broadcast Trainee with SBS while he completes his qualifications, Tyrone is the first high school graduate to be hired by the network since the 1980’s, and he’s there without the backing of a bachelor’s degree.

Carpenter / Estimator – Warwick Johnstone

Warwick also started his career through an Australian School-based Apprenticeship, undertaking a Certificate III in Carpentry and Joinery when he was just 17. He took on a number of roles including many leadership opportunities during his apprenticeship, such as a leading hand and site supervisor in his final year.

His qualifications gave him a developed skillset that he was able to apply to numerous jobs, and now works as an Estimator for an international commercial construction company in Melbourne. It has also opened up the opportunity for him to further his studies at uni and he is currently studying a Bachelor of Construction Management.

Horticulturalist – Jenna Conran

With an interest in the environment and talent in biology and in geography, pursuing horticulture was an easy choice to make for Jenna. She studied her Certificate III in Horticulture (Parks and Gardens) through an apprenticeship with Wollongong City Council, and her success has seen her continue her studies with a Diploma of Conservation and Land Management.

Her qualifications and performance within her apprenticeship has led her to be chosen to participate in the Office of Environment and Heritage’s Sustainability Leadership Program and nominated to attend the Public Sector’s 2017 Young Leaders’ Conference.

It’s unfortunately common to hear people say that ‘VET is all well and good, but it can’t get me into the career I want’. What most people don’t realise is that VET provides pathways into most careers, with qualifications in loads of different industries. It can open up opportunities through on-the-job training or set you up with the practical skills you need before paving the way into further education like university. There’s more than one way into almost every career, you just have to make sure you’re looking at all your options to find the learning experience that’s right for you.


This article was written in partnership with the Australian Government Department of Education and Training’s ‘real skills for real careers’ initiative to raise the profile of vocational education and training. If you’re keen to see what VET qualifications are on offer, jump over to the My Skills site here.

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