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The different pathways students are taking to success


Attending university is no longer the clear choice for students when they finish school, with enrolments falling across the country. In 2022 the number of first-year students enrolled in university fell by 8.2% to the lowest level in nine years, with the trend continuing into 2024. University dropout rates are also at their highest level since records began - of students who started their studies in 2017, 25.4% had dropped out before completing their studies by 2022.

High university fees and the increasing cost of living are large factors behind the declining enrolments. There is a growing belief among students that university may not be ‘worth it’ especially as it lacks any guarantee of a job upon graduation. The job market, which has been flourishing since the end of the pandemic is also playing its part, with many young people choosing to go into work to manage current financial pressures.

Preparing students for different pathways after school

University degrees still offer students the opportunity to enter high paying and specialised jobs, however these trends show for many, there are other pathways they can take to be just as successful in their career. One trend becoming more noticeable is the increase in popularity of TAFE courses and trade apprenticeships, with the promise of high salaries in the trades appealing to students.

While there are several options other than university available to students once they’ve finished school, most schools still follow traditional academic curriculums. However some are taking a different approach, preparing students for different pathways to success earlier in their lives.

Australian Industry Trade College is preparing students for the trades

In Queensland, the Australian Industry Trade College (AITC) is one school that is ‘deliberately different’. Founded in 2006 in a fish and chips shop on the Gold Coast, it has since expanded to have six campuses across the state. At The AITC students from Years 10-12 are supported into the trades and industry with specialist training and apprenticeships/traineeships while they complete senior school at the same time. Any traineeship or apprenticeship approved by the Australian Government, you can pursue at the college.


The AITC operates a condensed curriculum, where students still achieve their Year 12 qualification, but many activities found at a traditional school like assembly and sports are removed. Students spend half their term at school doing classes like maths, english and science, while the other half is spent in a wide range of apprenticeships and training. This creates a fast paced working environment that sets students up for success in the workplace.

Demand for the college has been on the rise since they opened their doors. A large part of the reasoning behind this they believe is traditional schooling that celebrates ‘traditional academic’ students is not for everyone. There is a large group of students who still want to get ahead and be successful in their careers and lives, but a different approach works better for them to achieve this.

“Initially, many of the young people at the Australian Industry Trade College don’t recognise their own talents. When provided with hands-on tasks and physical challenges, they identify that they have technical intelligence and we begin to see their confidence increase,” says Mark Hands, The AITC Executive Principal.

The AITC students receive mentorship from a dedicated ‘Industry Consultant’, who fills the role of providing pastoral care and coaching, ensuring students are developing in both character and employability. They have experience in trades, and complete risk assessment to ensure students go to a great workplace, and check in on how they are going in their placements. Upon leaving the college the main trades the college sees their students entering include plumbers, carpenters and electricians, but there are many others including boat building and even horse dentistry.

Supporting well rounded performers at The McDonald College

Careers in creative media and the arts are becoming more popular, with the sector showing consistent growth since 2011. Jobs in performing arts, film, production and promotion are career choices many students are going into.

One school that’s recognised this is The McDonald College in Sydney. Unique in its offering, the college provides specialised education in performing arts (as well as a performance sports stream) with equal focus on academic rigour. Students immerse themselves in their chosen discipline with daily training while receiving a comprehensive academic education at the same time.


The college, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, say there is a noticeable increase in demand for enrolment with more families being drawn to alternative schooling options in the performing arts. They believe it's important to provide students with options beyond traditional academia and prepare them for careers they’re passionate about.

This approach to education also helps students in their traditional schooling. Daily tuition in performing arts can boost student’s confidence, and being surrounded with like-minded peers takes the pressure off the students who might struggle to fit into a more traditional schooling environment. This confidence rubs off on their academic studies, leading to improved performance.

Many students of the college have gone on to do great things including productions on the West End, the Australian Ballet, famous musicians, journalists and even a member of The Wiggles. Traditional performing arts pathways such as music, dance and theatre are popular with graduates of the college, as well as entertainment production, teaching and arts administration.

Hospitality and tourism

Another pathway in favour with students is work in the hospitality and tourism sector. Already one of Australia’s largest industries, employment in the sector is forecast to grow and there are many pathways available towards higher-skilled and well paid positions in the field. These include roles such as hotel and restaurant managers, chefs, event planners and travel consultants.


MidCoast Christian College is another school that has identified that many students would prefer a more hands-on career. In 2021 the school built a half a million dollar industry standard hospitality kitchen on campus. Students at the school can now complete a nationally recognised hospitality qualification that sets them up for success in the industry. Combined with placements at local hospitality establishments as part of the course, students that want to continue in the industry get a head start when continuing their studies at TAFE, or enter straight into the workforce after school.

Support towards success

These schools are part of a group showing the pathways to a successful future don’t always look the same and are always evolving. Global events and economic factors can influence employment trends, but more importantly people have different passions, abilities and learning styles, and these should not get in the way of their success. While university still offers students some options other institutions can not, they are not the only way young people can have a fulfilling career. By supporting these students earlier in their lives, this group of schools are giving them an extra stepping stone towards success.

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