Doing a VET subject in grades 11 and 12 can help with a job and college. Here’s what you need to know about VET in senior years

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This article is one in a series providing students with evidence-based advice on choosing subjects in their senior years.

Vocational education and training, or VET, is where you learn skills for the job. Think of plumbers, veterinary nurses, fashion designers, makeup artists, chefs, nursery nurses, furniture makers, shipbuilders, carpenters, builders, electricians, lab and cybersecurity technicians, surveyors, paralegals and more.

VET is provided in secondary schools and post-school educational institutions such as TAFE or private training institutions. It is also provided in workplaces and in the community.

This can be done at your own pace, with a group through online learning, in the classroom, or a combination of these. If you are planning to take a VET subject in high school, here is what you need to know.

What types of VET qualifications are there?

Secondary school students can enroll in nationally recognized vocational training along with other school subjects. This includes doing apprenticeships or internships in a school environment.

As long as the students meet the requirements, they can complete their studies with a VET diploma along with their high school certificate.

You can learn many different skills with a VET course – from veterinary care to shipbuilding.
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Studying VET at school involves a combination of classroom and work-based learning. School-based apprenticeships and internships are a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training under a training contract with an employer.

In 2020, 241,200 high school students across Australia were doing VET which contributed to their high school certificate. This is an increase of around 2% from the previous year. More men have taken a VET course than women.



Read more: We need to change negative visions of the jobs VET serves to make it a good post-school option


If you want to do an apprenticeship or an internship in a school setting, you must have an employer who is willing to hire you. In 2020, around 7% (17,800) of secondary school students participating in VET chose this path. Queensland had the highest proportion of school-based apprentices and trainees of any state and territory.

the the five best qualifications completed by school apprentices and trainees in 2020 were in business, retail, hospitality, childcare, sports and recreation. Almost half of the students doing an apprenticeship or internship in a school setting in 2020 have enrolled in one of these certifications.



Most secondary school students who do VET do not do an apprenticeship or internship in a school setting. They do other types of VET studies instead. The first five registrations in 2020 included qualifications in hospitality, business and construction.

The Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways, a general qualification that helps prepare people for entry into the labor market and / or continuing vocational training, had the second highest number of registrations.



Depending on the VET course, students may learn at school, in specially designed facilities such as a vocational training center, or at the premises of an external training provider such as a TAFE or other educational institution. VET.

Schools can also join forces with other schools as part of a grouping to increase student supply. If your school does not have a course that interests you, you can check if you can do it at another school.

It is a flexible way to work and pursue studies

VET is a competence-based system, which means that the focus is on the development of a competence. Students then have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can perform this skill. No matter how the person compares to others, only how they behave against the required standard matters.

The VET system offers flexible pathways, allowing students to enter and leave education and training to acquire the skills and qualifications they need to enter the labor market. This includes starting their own business, transitioning to jobs, or transitioning to new or related jobs and courses.

Plumber showing a young apprentice how to fix a sink.
Taking a VET course at school means that you can leave school with a qualification under your belt.
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In 2019, there were 4.2 million people – almost a quarter (23.4%) of Australia’s resident population aged 15 to 64 – enrolled in nationally recognized VET courses.

Participation is highest among young people: 43.2% of 15-19 year olds and 32.2% of 20-24 year olds followed vocational training in 2019. Some students registered for certifications (such as Certificate II in Automotive Vocational Preparation or a Certificate III in Electrical engineering). Others signed up for short courses such as the Anaphylaxis First Aid Management Course or the Asbestos Awareness Course. Others only enrolled in one subject, such as learning to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or responsible serving of alcohol.

The number of students enrolled in short courses and stand-alone subjects has increased steadily in recent years.

Why do students do VET?

Secondary school students study VET for a variety of reasons, including to gain a qualification while still in school.

About 45% of high school students do VET for employment reasons, while 30% do so for further education. About a quarter of secondary school students take VET for personal development.

Taking a VET course at school can help find a job directly after finishing school. The research found students who completed VET studies at school, including apprenticeships and school placements, were more likely than those who had not done so to hold full-time, permanent employment five years after graduation.



Read more: Most young people doing after-school VET have full-time jobs by the age of 25


In states and territories that allow it, many students complete VET studies that count towards their ATAR. Some 45.2% of high school students who do VET also get an ATAR.

Apprenticeship of hairdressing students.
A VET qualification when you leave school can help you find a job.
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The research also explored the expected occupation of students doing VET in secondary education and whether they actually get that job. The strongest ties were found in trade-related fields of study – electrotechnology and telecommunications, construction trades, and automotive and engineering trades. There were also strong links between other professional groups, such as salespeople, orderlies and orderlies.

Will I earn less money than if I went to college?

the most common post-school diplomas for secondary school students who completed VET studies were VET diplomas. But nearly 20% of the students had also obtained a bachelor’s degree.

People with university degrees usually earn more per week than those with VET graduates. But this masks the variability of wages between industries and jobs that require VET skills.

For example, people with a VET degree and working in agriculture, forestry and fishing or mining have similar or even higher weekly incomes than those with a university degree.



Read more: Choosing your high school subjects doesn’t have to be scary. Here are 6 things to keep in mind


Specialized technicians and workers (such as plumbers, information and communications technology support technicians, operating theater technicians) who have VET qualifications earn as much per week, if not more, than those with a university degree in a similar job.

You can’t go wrong studying VET in school. This prepares you for a job right after school and opens up the possibility for you to continue your education, be it more VET or a university degree.

Read the other articles in our series on choosing senior subjects, here.


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