When choosing their senior pathway program, students are faced with a multitude of choice. Often their deliberations are focused on what subjects to do in their VCE, but sometimes, for a number of reasons, students decide that VCE isn’t really for them. That’s where studying VET and VCAL come in. One of our successful VCAL 2021 graduates, Isabella (MSHO) shares her thoughts about the benefits of a VCAL/VET program for students who are seeking an alternative pathway in their final years at OLMC.
Isabella, you started VCE in Year 11, but changed after first semester 2020. What was it was it that attracted you to VCAL?
It’s more hands-on and I got to focus more on my VET subject which is my passion! I’m studying my Certificate II in Animal Studies, learning about a range of animals, how to care for them and understand them, and VCAL has allowed me more flexibility to pursue that. It was nice to give VCE a try, but VCAL was definitely a better option for me. The content and project structure is more tailored to our interests and because it’s a small group, it’s so much more interactive than a normal classroom. We are more involved and a lot of the projects we do inter-twine with each other. I’m sure I made the right choice.
Apart from the fact that VCAL has been more interesting for you, in what way has it benefited you?
I think when things interest you, you find out more about other things that drive you, and you find out more about yourself. At times in VCAL, I have thought, “Oh, this piques my interest!”, and it leads to a pathway or something that connects your interests together. You also get more skills, like we did our barista and first aid certificates, and we’ve worked in our café, THE 7TH LAB; you get more practical experience and enjoyment out of what you learn.
What does the concept of employability skills mean and how has VCAL improved yours?
It’s skills that help you in the workforce, tailored for you to succeed, and I think you learn more about that in VCAL than in VCE. It’s more focused on your success beyond school, rather than your success in school. We focus on communication, problem-solving, critical thinking skills. I think I’ve developed those skills, and I’ve brought them into my workplace too. It’s made me more confident, like I put my hand up to speak way more in VCAL than I ever did in VCE. I never put my hand up in VCE classes!
Tell me about your work experience
I’ve loved my work experience! I had lots of great work placements lined up but I’ve only done one this year because of COVID. Every single time I went to do my work experience at the Cat Protection Society, it got shut down because of COVID. I was also really excited to go to JABS (Joey and Bat Sanctuary) because that one is a wildlife and rescue centre, not just farm or domestic animals; there’s bats, joeys, wombats, kangaroos, and I love that side of things.
I did get to work at the Edendale Community Farm, and I just loved it, because it’s the sort of environment that I want to work in, possibly for the rest of my life. I really want to do volunteering there after school, because it’s just so much fun working with those people, and being around those animals. They have reptiles there, farm animals, they interact with the community, and they have a café, and run sessions with school groups. There was just so much there that interested me and I learnt so much.
Has doing VCAL clarified for you what you want to do when you leave school?
Being able to focus more on my VET subject when I joined VCAL, I saw how much better it was in terms of my career path, because prior to that, I was stressing about all my VCE subjects, and I should have been focusing more on “This is what I want and how am I going to get there?” VCAL has shown me, due to work placement and just the different experiences I’ve had through VCAL, a much clearer vision about what I want to do in the future. So much of what we learn is going to help us in the future.
How have you enjoyed doing your VCE subject as part of VCAL?
I have really enjoyed Business Management. I like the challenge of the subject, I can see how it links to my VCAL and I like being in another class too.
What’s your perspective on people who think VCAL is really easy compared with VCE and that you can get your VCAL without doing much work?
The work is really different from VCE. Some girls really struggle with the load in VCE because they can’t keep up, whereas the work that’s set in VCAL is do-able and it’s easy for us to understand, expand our knowledge and link it together.
When I was thinking about switching from VCE to VCAL, a lot of people said to me “Don’t take the easy way out”, but really, it’s not easier, it’s just different. I’m doing the same amount of work but in a different context.
Who would you recommend VCAL to?
Anyone can be successful if they actually put in the effort. If you are after something more hands- on, interactive, one-on-one, driven by your interests, do VCAL.
Next year and beyond, what are your plans?
I started thinking about doing some study with companion animals while we were doing our Certificate II Community Services at school, because that would get me to work with youth and service animals. I was also tossing up between VET Nursing or a University course in science. But I have decided to do Certificate III in Captive Animals, because I will get a full-on experience with the animals, as it is actually onsite at the Werribee and Melbourne Zoos. At one point I wanted to be a Zoo Keeper anyway, so I will see where that takes me – to a farm, a rescue centre, to a zoo – it can take me anywhere! And it’s just so interesting!
Ms Helen Hamblin