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Career options for school-leavers

There is much more learners can do even if they did not get a university pass, says Smith. Photo: Gauteng Department of Education.

Don’t despair if you didn’t get a tertiary education pass: there are plenty of
options you can still explore

Charlotte Smith

Obtaining a matric with university entrance (an achievement rating of 50% – 59 % or better in at least four subjects) is one of the primary goals of secondary education. But not everyone obtains a university entrance, leaving them with a basic matric qualification. What opportunities are there for these matriculants, and what paths can they follow to create careers for themselves? Let’s have a look at some of the avenues open to these school-leavers.
One of the first options for matriculants who do not have university entrance is to go straight into the job market. There are several immediate advantages to this: for a start, money starts flowing in quickly, and there is no need to go into debt in order to study further.
Finding a job straight out of school can be a tough undertaking, however. The current employment scenario in South Africa is not a particularly good one for school-leavers, with a very high unemployment rate in this segment of the population. And where there are jobs available, prospective employers more often than not demand a certain amount of experience, which school-leavers obviously lack.
For these reasons we need to look at other options for matriculants, to make them more attractive to employees.
There are many further study options open to matriculants who do not have university entrance. In choosing a tertiary education direction, the first step is to decide on your desired vocation. This will determine what type of institute to study at, or whether to take a different approach.
Institutions offering diploma courses to matriculants are plentiful in South Africa’s major centres. For instance, for those interested in marketing, there is the IMM Graduate School of Marketing, or for those wanting to pursue a digital design career there is the Vega School, and so on. There are also plenty of “general purpose” colleges offering a wide range of diploma courses for matriculants.
Another option is to go into a trade and take courses at a technical institute. These are often linked to real-world work experience programmes, which can lead to employment once the necessary certification is obtained. There are also workplace apprenticeships in which a school-leaver can enrol, which may provide the significant advantage of generating income while simultaneously learning a trade.
There is a further option for school-leavers, one that is taking on ever-increasing importance in the context of South Africa as a developing country. With its relatively slow economic growth rate and high unemployment, the South African economy needs as much stimulus as possible. One of the most important drivers of this is entrepreneurship, with its ability to create jobs, generate taxable income and provide growth.
For matriculants with the right mind-set, starting a business, however small, is certainly a viable option. In order to meet the country’s entrepreneurship needs, it is a necessity that a certain number of people begin their own businesses and from there seek growth and sustainability.
Finally, if you are a recent matriculant who is completely unsure of what direction to take, there is the increasingly popular option of a “gap year”. This will give you the time to take stock and discover what it is that you really want to do. You can take this opportunity to travel, if that is affordable, or take a part-time job to gain some valuable work experience.
Whatever your preference, it’s important to realise that matriculating without a university entrance is by no means something that has to limit the opportunities available to you.

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