What are my child's career options if they don't finish high school?

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With Covid-19 disrupting so much of the 2020 academic year your matriculant teen may already be mentally preparing themselves for failure. 

They may not want to repeat the grade, or may not even be interested in finishing high school, but this doesn't have to doom their career prospects.

Here are some really great options for school leavers who aren't interested in academics, but are keen to build a career by working hard and learning new skills.

The options discussed here:

  • 1. Train for a technical/practical career at a TVET college.
  • 2. Get a learnership/apprenticeship.
  • 3. Join the military (army or navy) – you need a matric for this.
  • 4. Join the Sea Cadets.
  • 5. Join the police.
  • 6. Become a life saver.

Sounds interesting? We show you how.

1. Get qualified in a specific trade or vocation 

There will always be a demand for good tradesmen, no matter how the world changes. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET, formerly FET) colleges offer courses in a wide range of industries, including plumbing, motor mechanics, jewellery making, clothing production, beauty therapy, hair care, bricklaying, welding, bookkeeping, educare, furniture making, yacht building, hospitality and tourism. 

Your child doesn't have to wait until they've matriculated to start at a TVET college. With a Grade 9 or 10 they can join a TVET college and study towards a National Certificate (Vocational) or NCV, which is equivalent to a high school matric certificate. With an NCV, they may even be able to continue their studies at a University of Technology.

Public TVET colleges are all registered and accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Private colleges also have to register, but some do manage to operate illegally - so before you register at a private institution, it's very important to check that they're above board! For more info about private TVET colleges, go to the FET Colleges website. 

Course fees depend on the college, type and duration of the course and whether you're studying part- or full time. Financial aid is available from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

2. Apply for a learnership

While a TVET college education may be a good alternative to matric or university, not everybody has the time and money to study full time. Learnerships and apprenticeships will allow your child to get practical experience in a specific field while getting an accredited qualification. Learner- and apprenticeships are basically the same, but while an apprentice tends to work in a trade like motor mechanics, hairdressing, welding or jewellery making, a learner refers to somebody who works in a professional or service-related career such as project management.

A learnership is a fantastic way to develop skills, gain experience and obtain a qualification, all at no cost to your child. In fact, they may even earn a salary or an allowance while their employer pays for their studies! 

Your child can negotiate a learnership on their own by asking his employer to provide training and sponsor some courses at an educational centre (like a TVET college). Or they could apply for an opportunity through the government's learnership programme, whether they already have a job or are currently unemployed. The learnership programme is implemented by the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), who can provide a list of approved companies that offer learnerships in each of the 27 economic sectors that they represent.

For a full list of SETAs (with contact details), see the website of the Economic Development Department.  

3. Join the military (post-matric)

If your child already has a matric, they could sign up for the South African National Defence Force's full-time, 2-year Military Skills Development System (MSDS). This covers their basic training in one of the defence force's four branches, namely the army, navy, air force and military health service, as well as further training in specific fields. The MSDS opens a wide range of careers that don't necessarily involve combat. Your child could get a job in communications, hospitality, logistics, or they could become an engineer, diver, firefighter or navy band member.

  • For careers in the navy, visit the SA Navy's website.
  • For careers in the army, air force or military health service, visit the Department of Defence's website.
  • Even if they don't want to follow a military career, they can still become a reservist. As a member of the reserves they'll have medical coverage and get paid for the hours they work. For more about joining the defence reserves, visit the Defence Reserves website.

4. Join the Sea Cadets (Grades 6-12)

Kids from Grade 6 to 12 can join the sea cadets, a navy-endorsed programme that gives teens training in all sorts of maritime skills. Each cadet unit is linked to a land-based training ship and there are units across the country, from Cape Town and Richards Bay to Centurion, Johannesburg and Springs.

There are weekly training sessions, leadership camps during school holidays and an annual camp in Simon's Town which is hosted by the South African Navy. Your kids will learn skills such as seamanship, radio communications, first aid, firefighting and welding – things that will help them in a maritime career and possibly even in civilian jobs. For more information and to find a unit in your area, visit the Sea Cadets website

5. Join the police

It takes two years to train as a police officer. The first year is spent at the police academy, while the second year will give trainees some on-the-job experience. The good news is that you get paid even while you're training! You'll also get medical aid and, in your training year at the academy, your meals and accommodation are covered. For more information on joining the police, visit the SAPS website.

6. Become a lifesaver

If your child is 16 years old, loves water and is reasonably fit, they can do a professional lifesaving course. These courses aren't very expensive and you don't have to live near the beach to become a lifesaver! Public pools and water parks may employ lifeguards from as young as 16, provided that they have the correct qualifications. 

Your child will also have a great, bankable skill to take on a gap year: summer camps and cruise ships are always looking for qualified lifeguards.

There are more than 80 lifesaving clubs across the country, in the coastal as well as the inland provinces. Contact Lifesaving SA for information on your nearest club and courses or visit the Lifesaving SA website.

Is this helpful? Which other options can we add here?


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