Navigating after-school opportunities

Vocational training can equip school-leavers with job-ready skills that enhance their employability. | Freepik

Vocational training can equip school-leavers with job-ready skills that enhance their employability. | Freepik

Published Feb 7, 2024



AS the class of 2023 embarks on the journey beyond school, and the class of 2024 prepares to do so next year, these young people stand at the crossroads of exciting opportunities, daunting challenges and a bucket of options that can quickly entangle them in analysis paralysis.

After school, they are faced with numerous choices and options – each of which will shape and impact their future journeys.

Understanding an overview of the main paths generally embarked upon by young people, and the most salient challenges, can help guide these important decisions.

Higher education

One of the most common and rewarding opportunities for school leavers is to pursue a higher education pathway. Higher education institutions, both public and private, offer a gateway to in-depth learning and a platform for personal and intellectual growth.

A higher education qualification also provides a competitive edge in the job market, as employers generally prefer candidates with relevant qualifications and skills. However, not all higher education institutions provide equal value, so it is important to match your vision for your life to an institution most likely to help you realise that vision.

Vocational training

Another opportunity for school-leavers is to pursue vocational training and skill development. In a world that increasingly values practical skills; vocational training provides an alternative route to furthering your education.

School-leavers can pursue courses that equip them with specific, job-ready skills that enhance their employability in various industries. Although many roles require a degree, there are also rewarding positions that can be accessed with a vocational training qualification under your belt.

Entrepreneurial ventures

Some school-leavers may have an entrepreneurial spirit and choose to start their own business.

The rapidly evolving business landscape encourages innovation - making it an opportune time for those with a vision to carve their niche. Entrepreneurial ventures can also offer school-leavers a unique platform for innovation, personal development and the potential to make a lasting impact.

However, entrepreneurial ventures also come with significant challenges such as financial uncertainty, the impact of the entrepreneur’s limited experience, and market competition.

Navigating this path requires a combination of determination, adaptability and a willingness to learn from both successes and setbacks. Therefore, school-leavers who choose this option should be prepared to face both the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship.

Starting work

Some young people face logistical or financial barriers to furthering their education or embarking on entrepreneurship. For many, this means they will aim to enter the workforce straight after school.

Unfortunately, given South Africa’s high-unemployment rates, these candidates will face stiff competition for entry-level positions.

We would recommend that these young people do everything possible to continue their academic journey and develop their skill set by investigating relevant part-time short courses or online courses. This will demonstrate to employers that you are serious about your career and your future, and may open up opportunities down the line.

Also be sure to regularly check-in with your manager or HR officer about your development plans and goals. Many companies offer deserving candidates subsidised opportunities for further study and professional development.

Global opportunities

The interconnected global economy opens doors for school-leavers to explore opportunities beyond borders. International internships, exchange programmes and remote work options allow them to gain exposure to diverse cultures and working environments.

Global opportunities can also broaden their horizons, enrich their perspectives and enhance their skills.

However, global opportunities also come with their own challenges - such as cultural differences, language barriers and travel costs. Taking a “gap year” is often the approach of choice for international exposure, but it should be well planned and structured to add value to one’s personal development.

It is also a sound strategy to ensure that if you are in the position to take advantage of global opportunities after leaving school, you are able to align the opportunity to your future vision. Take the time to develop those skills that you can build upon later, so that your time spent abroad provides a strong base for later endeavours.

* Kriel is general manager at The Independent Institute of Education