Right now, in high schools all over Australia, Year 10 students are starting the process of selecting their HSC subjects for the next two years; a study path that should lead them towards their chosen career.
And it’s far from an easy task, given that the average 16-year-old student probably hasn’t got a clear idea yet of exactly what they want to ‘do’ when they finish school, which is why Year 10 students need to make smart subject choices now that will work to broaden their job prospects rather than inhibit them further down the track.
Making smart choices
Sally Payne is Associate Dean of Studies at UTS:INSEARCH, a pathway college to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) that specialises in six different disciplines – IT, engineering, design and architecture, communications, business, and science.
She says she sees a lot of students come through UTS: INSEARCH who have fallen short of ATAR scores or didn’t complete the necessary prerequisite HSC subjects to meet their desired UTS degree requirements. Which is why she puts such importance on Year 10 students doing their research when choosing their HSC subjects to avoid problems after they finish high school.
If students are currently deciding on their HSC study plan to go to university after graduating high school, Sally advises that they research the degrees they’re interested in and find out what the course prerequisites are.
“One of the major mistakes students make is not taking subjects that might be a prerequisite or an assumed knowledge for the university course or the career that they’re interested in,” she says. “For example, engineering often requires both maths and science and if you don’t do that in your HSC you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball before you even start.”
Why STEM studies are important
Even if maths or science doesn’t rock your Year 10 student’s world right now, Sally says studying these STEM subjects is what will actually offer most value to their career aspirations.
“STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and they are enormously important in our world right now,” Sally says. And recent research backs her up, finding that 75 percent of the fastest growing occupations in the world require STEM skills.
As technology continues to transform traditional careers and create new jobs, it’s becoming increasingly more important for students to have a solid understanding of maths and science, even if they don’t plan to pursue what is traditionally thought of as a ‘STEM’ career.
“Many employer groups are saying that professionals that have STEM skills are very important for their businesses and recognise how much value their STEM knowledge adds to the business, even if it hasn’t been a core requirement when they got the job,” she says.
“These skills offer a basis for lots of the jobs and careers in this modern age, and this will certainly continue into the jobs of the future that haven’t even been thought of yet.
“HSC maths and science subjects will help students develop analytical, problem-solving and critical thinking skills which they will need in their professional lives, especially as technology continues to create new professions and change traditional workplaces.”
Do your ‘homework’
Sally says there are plenty of resources available for students online, at school and even at university open days that can help them make informed choices .
“There are a few excellent websites like the University Admissions Centre’s Schoolink, which has a range of resources available including a special resource for Year 10 students thinking about which HSC subjects to choose. And The Department of Education website offers some good information, too,” Sally suggests.
Sally also suggests students speak with their teachers and career advisors and also to attend university open days to chat to course administrators for expert advice and support.
“University open days are not just for Year 11 and 12 students … Year 10 students should go to these too so they can talk to teachers, lecturers and advisors about different career paths and get some expert direction on what they need to study in HSC to be eligible for a particular course.”
What can parents do to help?
Parents of Year 10 students can offer their child invaluable support by being actively involved in the conversation around HSC subject selection.
By encouraging discussion about job aspirations, study options, university requirements and employer expectations and the importance of STEM subjects, you can be a positive influence in guiding your child to make smart subject choices and, in the process, broaden their future career prospects.