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A parent's guide to navigating further education and training

University is not for everyone. Vocational training is not for everyone. Education is for everyone.

Most careers need some form of education and training. But they don’t all require a university degree. Some train workers through apprenticeships, some through hands-on experience, and others through specialised programs. This time of year can really be crunch time for students trying to decide the next steps on their education journey, and it can be fraught with anxiety and indecision.

As parents, all we want for our children is that they make choices that will lead them to a path of independence and happiness. But what are the options, and how can you help your child decide what's right for them? The key is to help them figure out where their passions like, and how this might translate to a career. Then you can help them plot out the steps to take to get to where they want to go.


Higher education can significantly improve your child's employability and income prospects. Many professions from teaching to medicine will require a degree as a minimum entry point into the jobs market.

But not every teenager suits or is even thinking about university. Perhaps traditional academic environments don't suit them, or maybe they have their heart set on a vocation or trade. It could be that they still don't know what they want to do next, and that's okay too. There’s scientific evidence that indicates our brains are still developing well into our early twenties. Sometimes it takes a few years after school for people to work out what they really want to do with their lives. It can take time, and it's better to wait for your child to come to the right decision later, rather than jump into something they are not committed to.

Vocational education and training

There are a variety of reasons your child should consider vocational education and training (VET) after school. Perhaps they want to enter a trade, test out an industry, or maybe they just didn't get the OP they needed to enter university.

Designed to deliver practical, workplace-specific skills and knowledge, VET covers a wide range of careers and industries. If you find that your teenager struggles in a traditional classroom, or if they're more of a tactile learner, VET may be where they will really shine. Completing a VET course can help your child improve not only their skills and knowledge, but also their confidence. They can gain a qualification, start working sooner, improve their career or job opportunities, and advance to further study or university.

TAFE Queensland offers more than 500 nationally-recognised qualifications from entry-level to higher education. If you have a child interested in anything from a trade to hospitality and events, or creative industries to health care and nursing, chances are we have a course for them. We can even guarantee them entry to university once they complete a diploma with us.


If university or vocational education isn't an option, or your child needs extra time to decide which path to persue, entering the work force after school is another option.

Teenagers will learn how to job hunt, write a resume and cover letter, and develop their interview skills and confidence. These are very important throughout your child's career. Developing them early means they have more time to hone them and stand out from the crowd later in life. Whether they work full or part time, paid or unpaid, it also provides valuable experience and lets your teen learn about an industry to decide if it's right for them. Making contacts and developing relationships at this stage may also prove valuable for your teen later in their career.

Gap year

For some teenagers, taking a year off between high school and starting tertiary study or entering the "real world" can be beneficial. They can travel, complete community service, work experience or internships, or live overseas. These options will provide valuable life experience.

For other teens, it's a way of managing stress and preventing burnout. Once the well-deserved break is over, they can dive headfirst into the next chapter of their life.

It's tough being a teenager, trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life. The pressure is on. Knowing when, as a parent, to intervene or take a step back seems impossible at times.

Our advice? Listen to your child. Remind them of the big picture and that a bad grade doesn't mean they've failed. Make them aware that there are a range of options. Talk through the pros and cons of each option together. Above all, be there for them. You will get through it together. Then all that's left to do is celebrate.