Traineeship steers Maitland students down new career path

When students are preparing to finish High School, they often come to a crossroads when considering future career paths.

Some students choose the university path while others prefer hands-on careers and opt for an apprenticeship or traineeship.

“Sadly there’s a perception in the public, particularly among parents, that you have to choose one or the other,” says HVTC CEO Sharon Smith.

“Contrary to this belief, VET and university pathways can complement each other.

“Last week, Year 12 students across NSW received their HSC marks and ATAR scores. I hope these students are aware of all the options available to them.

“I also hope parents realise that choosing a VET career doesn’t mean their child can’t pursue a university degree in the future. There tends to be a lot of competition between these two pathways, but many apprentice and trainee grads go on to attend university to build on their existing qualifications.”

This has been the case for HVTC trainees Alex McIntosh and Emma Williams, who are both set to commence studies at the University of Newcastle in March after completing a Certificate III Allied Health Assistance Traineeship in December.

Alex and Emma were hosted to Early Links Inclusion Support Service where they got a taste of a range of different health professions, such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Psychology and Physiotherapy.

Early Links is an early childhood intervention service for children between 0 and 12 years of age who have a developmental delay, disability or at risk of developing one in the future.

Throughout their traineeships, Alex and Emma accompanied therapists to in-home and school visits to help children improve their social and developmental skills. They also had the opportunity to work on the Big Yellow Bus – a mobile playground with slides, fun play activities and craft sessions to encourage the development of social skills, gross and fine motor skills. The bus travels to Cessnock, Singleton and Muswellbrook every week, targeting children between the ages of 3 and 5 who are about to commence Primary School.

Prior to the traineeship, Alex was planning to study Nursing at university but has since decided to pursue Psychology.

“I knew I wanted to work in health I just wasn’t sure what area. The traineeship has opened my eyes to some of the different sectors available,” he said.

“Throughout the traineeship I had the opportunity to learn more about the different Allied Health professionals and what their roles involve on a daily basis.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with the kids and helping address some of their behavioural issues. It has been interesting to learn how support strategies differ from one child to the next.

“Despite initially wanting to study Nursing, I’m now enrolled in a Bachelor of Psychology at the University of Newcastle. There are so many different areas within psychology to specialise in. I’m not sure which one I want to pursue yet but I hope I end up working with kids in some capacity.

“The traineeship definitely helped sway my decision. I wouldn’t have known about these other career paths without experiencing them for myself. Theory is very different to practical experience.”

Similarly, Emma was leaning towards Speech Pathology, but the traineeship peaked her interest in Occupational Therapy.

“Initially I was accepted into Speech Pathology but I put my degree on hold until I decided what I wanted to do,” she said.

“Since completing the traineeship I’ve changed my mind and have enrolled to study Occupational Therapy at Newcastle in 2019.

“I like that OT is so broad and there are so many areas to get into within the field. If possible I’d love to specialise in paediatrics. I really enjoyed working with children through Early Links. It was great to get that experience as working with kids was never really on my radar.”

Early Links Finance & Administration Manager Sam Morrison said Alex and Emma have been an integral part of the team.

“They have performed duties diligently and have visibly grown with their confidence. They have been an outstanding asset to the Early Links organisation as well as to the families they have assisted,” she said.

“The traineeship has given them a working knowledge of various allied health professions, such as OT, Speech, Psychology, Physio and Music therapy. They have had the opportunity to assist with various aspects and this has provided some guidance for them for future studies.”

Alex and Emma said they would recommend a traineeship to other students or school-leavers, even those who still plan to attend university.

“A traineeship can provide more insight into the different roles people have and can give you a taste of these roles before you commit to studying a particular degree,” Alex said.

Emma agreed, encouraging students to consider all of their options.

“Before you decide what you want to do, consider your options and look at what’s out there. I never considered a traineeship as a pathway to university but it has been a great learning experience,” she said.

“Early Links is a great organisation. The people are lovely and it’s a great environment to work in. I’m excited to continue working for them as a Developmental Support Worker.”

HVTC Allied Health Trainee Alex McIntosh standing in front of the Early Links Big Yellow Bus 

HVTC Allied Health Trainee Emma Williams standing in front of the Big Yellow Bus