Now that Christmas is well and truly over and the dust has settled from New Year’s celebrations, it’s probably time to think about what we’re gonna do with ourselves for the rest of the year. Those that are off to uni are already set and just need to keep themselves busy for the next month or so. Others might have travel plans that’ll take up most of their year and are happy working in the meantime to help them save up some cash.

For the rest of us, we’re left with a tough decision: do we try to do something that’ll make us more qualified or do we get a job that gets us paid straight away?

Thankfully, there’s an option that lets us do both. Doing an apprenticeship means you’ll start working towards a nationally recognised qualification in your chosen field by immersing yourself in real life work, all while getting paid for it.

It’s a solid way to gain training and work experience without sacrificing an income and can give you a direct pathway into a bunch of different careers in areas like construction, plumbing, carpentry, cooking, landscaping and more.

This is perfect for those of us that learn better by actually doing things and hate being stuck in a classroom. While there is some theory learning (usually at TAFE or a private college) it’s generally quite hands-on and most of your training will come from being on-the-job. This means that you get all the practical and theory knowledge you need, plus you net yourself a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification to show for all your hard work.

Not only do you get paid to study and gain work experience, but as of July last year the NSW Government has implemented fee-free apprenticeships for new commencements. This means that course fees are paid for by the government and apprenticeships can be undertaken at no cost to the student or employer. It’s now way easier to start an apprenticeship, since there’s no upfront payments, and businesses are more likely to hire apprentices since they won’t be paying anything either.

It might sound too good to be true, but it turns out the whole VET system is actually just that damn good. And, there’s a huge demand for jobs in these fields so people are required to fill open positions all over Australia. This means that getting yourself into any of the 120+ fee-free apprenticeship courses is a sure way to secure your future, because training in these areas means you’re almost guaranteed to get a job. In fact, last year 91.2% of apprentices in a trade occupation course were employed immediately after their training, a pretty good stat.

An apprenticeship also serves well as a solid start to develop your career in other ways–if that’s what you’re looking for. For example, studying a Cert IV or Diploma of Building and Construction after your apprenticeship can help you land a construction manager role (which, by the way, is the highest paying job you can get without a degree). This is also a great pathway if your goal is to start your own business, where you’ll have to be across all stages of the construction process and can end up hiring apprentices of your own. Doing an apprenticeship doesn’t rule out uni, either, with heaps of people going on study a degree after getting their start in the industry.

Find out more about fee-free apprenticeships here and be sure to check out what apprenticeship courses are available by clicking here.