Where to after the HSC?

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Students are faced with many daunting choices after the HSC.
Students are faced with many daunting choices after the HSC.

Unsure of what to do after the HSC? The best advice I have can be fleshed out from the simple message on a huge sign at the front of De La Salle Caringbah. It reads “Enter to Learn – Leave to Serve”. Put there by the much loved and sadly recently deceased former principal, Gary Burrows, it sets out a fundamental challenge for this time of transition.

For the young school leaver there are many ways to leave to serve, whether it be some form of selfless service to the community, service to family or service to self by becoming a productive member of society.

Put aside those who are sure of what to do, either continuing study or off to work with a job already secured, there will be quite a few unsure.

Students who will be students no more at the end of their last exam and who, after whatever break they can afford, will need to make that transition to what comes next.

Parents and teachers can help by directing them along a decision path that I frequently see looking like this:

Step 1.  Get work. If they have not yet had work experience, this is the time to start. Paid work is preferred, the generosity of parents cannot be expected to last forever. If the school leaver is struggling to find work, parents can often help, as can teachers. We are often approached to recommend leavers for jobs by local businesses and ex students. Work at this time does not have to be the great vocation of your life, simply earning your own way will allow you to commence that life of service.

Students may not have had work experience but now is the time to start.
Students may not have had work experience but now is the time to start.

If paid work is proving too hard to find then volunteer, apart from the practical rewards of such service, the opportunities to network are great and the alternative of idleness is to be avoided at all cost.

Step 2. Help them look for a better, more suitable job, and do not give up their first job till they have a new one. Whatever they decide they can always change their mind. The reality is that today this is more the norm than the exception. The changing nature of jobs will see many workers undertake up to a dozen quite different jobs in their 50 year working life.

Step 3. When you lose your job: go back to step 1. Usually parent but occasionally teacher support can be critical here. There are a multitude of reasons for losing a job and few are any obstacle to getting another one, this is a sometimes harsh reality of adult life. The do-overs allowed in school just don’t come into the world of work.

I have left a ”Gap Year” out of these steps for the unsure. I am not a fan. To be honest I think this is only a real (and very occasionally necessary) option for a small, well defined group typically those who enjoy study, have a proven record as hard working students and for whatever reason need a break. They are determined to return to study the following year, usually knowing what their eventual course will be. In these cases, I have witnessed some remarkable acts of generosity, often reaching out to those in great need. A gap year for travel … well beyond the means of anyone I know, but if you are real keen – see Step 1. For the unsure talking about a gap year – see Step 1.