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Earning a trade is just the ticket

Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday February 3, 2011

Caitlin O'Toole

Early apprenticeships are helping more students to forge a career path, writes Caitlin O'Toole. As the business liaison officer for trade school Anglican Technical College Western Sydney, Alan McPherson is used to hearing the same question from businesses: "Why couldn't I go to a school like that?"High schools such as ATCWS team up with businesses to offer school-based apprenticeships that let students juggle learning a trade and paid work experience with the HSC - giving them a head-start over aspiring tradies from traditional high schools."It's suited to somebody who is serious about being trade-qualified and doesn't want to go to a traditional school with subjects they're not interested in, like history, geography or languages," McPherson says.ATCWS students split their time intofive- or six-week blocks of work, then five or six weeks of class."We do business studies, so they'll be able to run their own business one day, and we do work studies, which prepares them for the world of work," he says.Students learn interview tips, workplace behaviour, taxation, the industrial awards system and safety, while also studying entrepreneurial success stories.Catholic school Rosebank College offers from year 10 an accelerated hospitality cookery apprenticeship, working with the Hospitality Training Network, and from year 11, apprenticeships in marine construction and carpentry. Students spend one day a week at TAFE college, one day at work and three days in HSC classes."Students were interested in doing a trade and liked the opportunity of commencing while still at school, just to get a head-start, really," says the acting career adviser at Rosebank, Angela Pavicic.One recently graduated student is aiming be a fully qualified chef by the time she's 19 and one retail student is doing a traineeship with McDonald's."Students just really thrive in the workplace, they like this idea of learning on the job," Pavicic says.McPherson says businesses like what they see in student apprentices, who are motivated and have a low dropout rate. "It's quite good to say to employers, 'This guy wants to be a plumber, that's why he's here,"' he says. "Our students are not going to be a mechanic one day and a bartender the next."Mentors visit the workplace to make sure students are a good fit for the business and to check working conditions. Businesses appreciate that interaction, McPherson says.

© 2011 Sydney Morning Herald

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