With enrolments now open for the first of South Australia’s five new technical colleges, we dive into how they create new pathways for students and set them up to be career ready.
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Technical colleges explained
Described as a modern take on the old trade schools, South Australia will become the home of five new technical colleges, offering students in years 10 to 12 a unique pathway to kickstart their dream careers.
The government has committed $208.8 million to establish the five technical colleges, which will be available to students in year 10, 11 and 12 as part of the public education system.
Findon Technical College, located at Findon High School, will be the first to open its doors at the start of the 2024 school year. The Heights School in the northeast and the Tonsley Innovation precinct are due to open by 2026, as will the two regional technical colleges in Port Augusta and Mount Gambier.
Clare Feszczak, Executive Director of Student Pathways and Careers, provides insight into these exciting developments in South Australia’s education system.
“I always describe them as the bridge between education and work, because they will feel like a workplace for students,” she says.
“Students will be treated similarly to the experience in the workplace. The colleges are designed for young people to start their careers while they’re in school.”
Setting South Aussie students up for new career pathways
Feszczak emphasises that while universities are a great option for some students, they may not be suitable for everyone. Technical colleges provide an alternative for students who prefer practical vocational learning and are eager to enter the workforce.
With the hands-on focus, students learn in state-of-the-art environments that mirror real workplaces, including the necessary technology and equipment.
“The students are not sitting in a classroom listening to theory – they’re actually in the environment where they would be working. They’re gaining the knowledge and they’re gaining the skills in an authentic workplace environment.”
Each college will feature state of the art facilities. At Findon, Androids will welcome students in the foyer, and classrooms will mirror professional settings such as engineering workshops or healthcare facilities like hospitals and aged care.
Watch this video to step into the future Findon Technical College:
An early step toward employability
Each technical college will have specialisations based on its location or job opportunities in the region. With Findon located close to the Osborne Naval Shipyard, it will have a significant focus for the new college is advanced manufacturing and engineering, appealing to jobs in that vicinity, as well as early childhood and education, and health and social care.
“The reason they’ll have a specialisation is because they are training young people for the jobs and opportunities that exist in that area. They’ll all look a little bit different, catering to their own context.”
To ensure the curriculum aligns with industry needs and capabilities within the workplace, the technical colleges work closely with industry partners. So far, Findon Technical College has partnerships with BAE Systems, Liebherr, Precious Cargo Education, Goodstart Early Learning, Helping Hand, and Southern Cross Care.
Not only do the employers determine the content of the training programs and mentor students, but Feszczak says the partners have also committed to offering job opportunities to students once they graduate, creating real career pathways.
Strengthening the workforce
Apart from benefiting individual students, the technical colleges will strengthen the state’s workforce.
Feszczak says they’re a solution to the skill shortages and will set up students to succeed long after they’ve left the college gates. Graduating with their SACE and qualifications valued by workplaces will enable students to enter the workforce immediately or pursue higher education.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for students to develop skills and start a career with real jobs, and it’s a great option for employers to work with students as a pipeline of future employees for their industries.”
The application process
Each college is expected to admit at least 200 students who will be required to meet the criteria around literacy, numeracy, and a commitment to the industry. After an online demonstration of their skills, they’ll follow an interview process to demonstrate their commitment.
Feszczak says it’s an exciting initiative for South Australia and encourages students to apply now as places are limited.
“It’s a win for employers, and it’s a win for the students as well.”