Not all who wander are lost

Image source: Financial Review

By Bridget Herrmann

With funding for 20,000 new apprentices, perhaps it’s time to consider alternatives to university.

Financial and academic pressure, student loan debt and a lack of hands-on experience can mean university isn’t the right path for everyone.

A Government inquiry into productivity also found many students do not complete their degrees – over 26 per cent in 2014.

Moreover, graduate unemployment sat at 26 per cent in 2016 compared with 9 per cent in 2008.

There are plenty of alternatives to university – take a peek at what young people are doing instead:

Maddison Sellick, 21, police officer

For as long as she could remember, Maddison dreamed of studying journalism at university.

However, when the time came she found university life a real struggle.

“I liked the degree itself … but I was struggling to find motivation,” she said.

Assignments were rushed, and lectures and tutorials were only attended if they were compulsory.

Despite this, Maddison wanted to achieve results she “could be proud of”.

“It was a really unhealthy cycle and it was a massive relief when I decided to put the degree on hold and go chase a career I knew that I’d love,” she said.

This was compounded by the outlook of the media industry – she stressed about the difficulty of securing work in an industry becoming more uncertain.

She started researching other options and by the end of the year was accepted into the South Australian Police Academy.

Maddison knew she had made the right decision because she was enjoying her study and achieving impressive results.

Now, you’ll find her working rurally on patrols in Ceduna.

“I have loved every minute of working in SAPOL and look forward to the rest of my hopefully long and rewarding career in the job.”

However, she does not regret her time at university, saying it helped her find her path.

In fact, she says those study skills helped during her training at the academy.

Maddison considers herself a huge advocate for exploring alternatives to university.

“I have many friends who are about to graduate high school who are under the impression that it’s the ‘norm’ to go to uni, even if they don’t have their sights on any degree in particular.”

“I still believe university is a fantastic opportunity for those who … want to be there.”

“But if not, opportunities through internships etc are often looked as being lesser … I couldn’t disagree more!”

“When in doubt, explore the options available!”

For information on joining the South Australian Police, visit

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Jordan Reiha, 20, manager

For Jordan, university is still on the cards, but he entered the workforce after school.

“I’m certain I do want to study at uni, but I’m in no rush at the moment,” he said.

“I haven’t found a degree I’ve been interested in … some friends currently at uni regret choosing their course.”

“This has made me really careful as I don’t want any regrets.”

Jordan found part-time employment as a shift manager at fast food chain McDonald’s.

However, working straight out of school had some drawbacks for the 20-year old.

A lack of experience in the workplace meant he rushed into management and part-time employment when he was comfortable with a casual position.

Aside from work, he aspires to travel in place of studying.

“Part-time employment meant I could travel regularly.”

Jordan recommends part-time employment for anyone who needs regular work hours and the benefits of a permanent position.

“[For benefits] part-time employment is worth it.”

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Jordan Piles, 18, apprentice

Jordan has always learnt more quickly when he is actively doing something.

It was this knowledge that led him to seek out an apprenticeship in civil construction.

“I’ve learnt so much in four months [of beginning the apprenticeship] that will hopefully stay with me for the rest of my career and beyond,” he said.

The apprentice believes university would be a waste of time for him, as he enjoys being outdoors.

The apprenticeship, on the other hand, has had many benefits.

“I really enjoy going to work every morning,” he said.

“By learning these skills, I can do a lot more around the house … instead of paying other people to do it.”

Undertaking an apprenticeship also eases the financial pressures associated with study.

“Getting the opportunity to learn and earn at the same time really helps … you don’t have to worry about coming home from uni and going to a part-time job and then completing multiple assignments when you get home.”

Jordan says apprenticeships are a fantastic way to get into the workforce.

“Uni isn’t for everyone and people don’t look down on you for not going to uni.”

“The most important thing is that you’re doing something that you enjoy and that you can see yourself doing for the remainder of your career.”

Tim Whiffen, 21, TAFE and university student

Tim is a university student, studying a Bachelor of Media, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Philosophy but is taking it to the next level, and supplementing his degree with other studies.

To strengthen his university studies, Tim completed a Certificate IV in Screen and Media with a major in broadcast radio.

The aspiring radio presenter did not feel that university would give him the practical skills he would need in the long run.

“[It] may involve practical skills in the lesson, but they never prove you are capable to do a job to an employer,’ he said.

“I would never show anyone a degree to prove I could work at a radio desk.”

For Tim, industry training helped him focus on what positions appealed to him in the broadcast industry.

What’s more, he had the flexibility to mould it to his goals.

“Ultimately, the training is highly specific when you want it to be,” he said.

He recommends TAFE and alternatives to university if you are studying something in the creative industries.

Previously, financial pressure had prevented Tim from undertaking industry training, but he received a grant covering his TAFE studies.

He recommends researching as much as possible before starting, even looking for grants from local councils.

“There is usually a back door and more often than not the grants [are] available.”

There are a variety of scholarships available for TAFE SA studies and information can be found on their website.

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