Ballarat High School year 12 student Charlie Cronin has firm plans to study an advanced diploma in agribusiness at Longerenong College next year and because he does not require an ATAR to enter the course, has opted to complete an unscored VCE.
Charlie is among an increasing number of VCE students this year to have either gained an apprenticeship or decided to pursue a pathway that does not require an ATAR.
While entry to the two-year course does require a VCE pass, it does not need an ATAR so Charlie will not sit the final exams with his classmates.
"Agribusiness is a mixture of accounting, business management, all the finance side of it mixed with interactive farming," Charlie explained. "I've always been in to the accounting side of things, then I got in to farming through my uncle and I realised I want to do the business side but not be tied to a desk."
After completing the diploma Charlie is undecided whether he will continue on to university, using the diploma as a stepping stone, or go straight to work.
"I reckon it will give me a really good idea of what I want to do, whether it's farm management, rural finance or something else related."
While the number of students opting for unscored VCE has remained fairly steady, several Ballarat secondary colleges have noted an increase in the number of year 12 students who have left school to take up apprenticeships or full-time jobs this year, in part because of the COVID disruptions and remote learning.
"We've certainly seen a continual need for apprentices and we have already seen a number of students transfer to apprenticeships before the end of the year. The building and construction trade seems to have held up fairly well during COVID 19," said Ballarat High School pathways coordinator Andrew Wallace.
Phoenix P-12 Community College vice principal year 11 and 12 Grant Luscombe said he had also seen in increase in students looking to finish VCE early and get a job.
"We haven't really seen an increase in unscored VCE but there's been an increase in students who are looking to maybe not complete their VCE and have found jobs and apprenticeships," he said.
"We've seen a number of students go in to different pathways, and we've had to help students stay at school more than previous years, counselling them through. They can see the finish line now, but a few weeks ago we were counselling quite a few."
Mr Wallace said there were also more students than usual looking toward TAFE and other options.
"There won't be many kids taking a gap year and tripping off overseas - that will be out of the picture - so we notice increase in uni applications -and we've definitely had higher interest in TAFE pathways for next year," he said.
And many of the jobs students might have taken on during a gap year while deciding what they want to do will just not be an option next year.
"Employment pathways are going to be tighter and the kids need to do something next year so a lot are looking at the courses at TAFE, which have the advantage of being free. And because TAFE is generally a one-year pathway as opposed to three years at uni they are going to treat that as a stepping stone - do the TAFE course for a year then either go out and work or use that as an option to go to uni if they decide."
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Mr Wallace believed some of the number who had left school during year 12 for jobs, other study or apprenticeships might have stuck it out to the end of year 12 if not for the COVID disruption of remote learning.
"For some students who were questioning whether to come back for that last year, remote learning probably sped up their decision earlier in the year and they went ahead and got apprenticeships or moved in to the workforce whereas in the past they might have decided to finish the year off.
"In the past they might have always known that was probably what they wanted to do, but they didn't want to leave their friends."
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