The future could now look a little different for some of the students who took part in Federation TAFE's annual Discovery Day.
More than 500 year nine and 10 students from local secondary schools had the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a variety of trades - from bakery to bricklaying, spray painting to simulated welding, agriculture and many others.
The Discovery Day has been held for many years, and countless previous participants have gone on to further studies in trades they had not considered until getting a taste of the job at the day.
Federation TAFE's Bill Mundy said the event was about opening the eyes of young people to the trades and opportunities out there.
"This day gives young folks the chance to have a look at vocational qualifications as an alternative to going to university," Mr Mundy said.
Unlike a traditional careers day of talking and asking questions, Discovery Day participants tackled the trades hands-on to really learn what the job could be like.
Among the activities were 3D painting and animation, a computer simulated lighting and engine system, bricklaying, measuring vital signs, art and children's play and virtual spray painting in courses including digital/media, agriculture, bakery, nursing and graphic design.
"They had hands-on opportunities to use a welding simulator, simulators in the automotive area, cooking, and more," Mr Mundy said.
Students came from across the region including Loreto College, Phoenix P-12 Community College, St Patrick's College, Ballarat Christian College and other schools to take part in Discovery Day.
With students in years nine and 10 on the brink of having to choose subjects as a pathway to a career, Mr Mundy said it was the ideal time to show students the vocational opportunities available.
"In that age group they're starting to think 'what am I going to do' and this gives them a chance to have a look at alternatives ... and get up close and personal to look at what trade or qualification they're interested in and aspects of the training they would do."
Sometimes students did not realise they could train for the jobs they were interested in at TAFE.
Mr Mundy said the state government's free TAFE program was also drawing massive interest from potential students of all ages and stages in life.
"Our business has certainly gained as a result of free TAFE. In a lot of courses we are bursting in relation to the number of students and our capacity ... as a consequence of free TAFE.
"It's a great problem to have. What it's done is give people an opportunity. They may have been prevented from entering training because of the cost of training - it might have been something they couldn't attain.
"It's given them the opportunity to get training and, as a result of that, given them a chance to start or change their career or re-enter the workforce."
He said the free TAFE program had raised awareness within the community about the variety of courses offered.
Free nursing, plumbing, accounting and book-keeping, disability, welfare, horticulture and engineering courses have been particularly popular at Federation TAFE.
"With these students we had here, because they are in year 10 and we are talking about them potentially entering the workforce not before the end of next year or the year after ... by the time we get to that point free TAFE may have changed or been added to," Mr Mundy said.
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