At this senior school, career pathways are established and supported before the final bell rings, writes Kristie Kellahan.
A school where students can learn to perfect a chignon in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic? At Bendigo Senior Secondary College, students can learn the fine art of hairdressing, along with many other practical vocational skills.
The college offers 23 vocational education and training (VET) courses across industries including agriculture, engineering, hairdressing and hospitality. Students can complete their training as part of their VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education) or VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) studies.
They can also complete their VET course as part of a specialist program linking training with other pathway-specific subjects.
BSSC vocational learning manager Jennifer Moloney says the real signature of the program is that the skills being taught are in response to what the community needs.
"We're building up confidence in employers that we are developing students that they can employ," she says. "We provide an extensive workplace learning program, and many of the placements evolve into ongoing apprenticeships or traineeships. That's great for the students and it's also great for the community."
The winner of the Victorian VET in schools excellence award, part of the Victorian Training Awards, BSSC leads the way in vocational training for secondary students.
BSSC has 1718 students, 302 of whom are enrolled in VCAL. Of the 150 staff members, 23 teachers are involved in the VET program.
In the past five years, there has been a 44 per cent increase in the student uptake of VET.
Students who exit before the completion of secondary school have enjoyed a 16 per cent increase in traineeships, apprenticeships and work-based transitions.
"We offer an extensive VET in schools program and operate as the lead agent for the Bendigo Schools Trade Training Centre, a consortium with six feeder schools that work together to provide some of our full suite of vocational training," Moloney says.
She says it's great that students have options to make decisions on their career path.
"At the moment, for the boys, building and construction is very popular," she says. "With the girls, it's hairdressing and beauty services. At the end of the day, the student makes a decision on their career path after listening to different voices.
"We have the ability to cater to the full range of curriculum choices made by students ... We come to a crossroads often in life and it's important to be supported to make informed decisions."
INDUSTRY JOB FOCUS
Middle school teachers in year to November 2012 - 54,600
Growth in past 10 years - 27.7%
Average weekly wage (full time) - $1510
Average weekly wage (full time, all occupations) - $1162
Full time - 79.1%
Average weekly hours full time - 42.9
Unemployment - Low