Alternatives to university for your teen

If you’re still looking for alternatives to university for your teen, this article might be exactly what you need!

What do Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They’re the founders of some of the world’s most successful companies – but yet none of them have a degree behind their name. For many people, going to university is a choice that is taken for granted after they graduate from high school, but this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone. Finances or other logistics may prevent some students from enrolling, while others simply may not have the academic results required to secure a place. So, if university is not on the cards for your child, what are the alternatives?

Here are a few alternatives you and your teen may want to consider:

Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in South Africa offer specialist vocational training through fifty registered colleges on over 260 campuses around the country. These colleges are operated by the Department of Higher Education and Training, so they’re highly subsidised, making them much more affordable than the cost of university tuition. TVET colleges focus on occupational training, which means they teach you skills for a specific range of jobs to make you highly employable in artisan or technical fields, from construction and security to education, manufacturing, or hospitality.

Specialist colleges

Has your child loved baking since they were five years old? Or maybe they’ve wanted to be a game ranger all their life? If your child has a good idea of the kind of industry they’d like to work in, obtaining a diploma or certificate from a specialist education institution may be the right option for them. In South Africa and abroad, your child can find specialist colleges in almost every industry sector they can think of, including tourism, hospitality, photography, culinary arts, business studies, IT, marketing, and agriculture.

Like TVET colleges, specialist colleges are designed to be highly practical and specific to their industry, and they give your child the specific skills they need to enter the world of employment straight after they get their qualification. Don’t become despondent if university is no longer an option for your child, as there are plenty of other ways they can earn a living and build a career.

Internships and learnerships

One of the biggest challenges for a new university graduate is not being able to find work because they have no practical working experience. This is where the concept of an internship – gaining work experience within a company without being paid, or while getting very basic remuneration – can be much more useful in getting the practical skills your child needs for the working world.

Similar to internships, learnerships are work-based learning programmes designed to let your child get work experience while training towards a qualification geared to a specific occupation, such as becoming a flight attendant, nurse, paramedic, or government employee. These occupational learnerships form part of a nationally recognised qualification, and involve both theoretical and practical elements, under the guidance of a mentor.

Both internships and learnerships allow your child to have a feel for the industry they’ll work in, as well as forge relationships and network with key individuals who could help them further their career. Either way, they’ll be able to get references that can help make them much more appealing to potential future employers.

Online short courses

A major disadvantage with university is that most undergraduate degrees involve a minimum of three years of study, which means that you invest lots of time (and money) into helping your child get a degree. By contrast, a shorter course can be completed relatively quickly, which also reduces costs. Your child could even do several of them that complement one another within very specific areas.

Many South African universities, along with independent companies such as GetSmarter, Damelin, and Oxbridge Academy, offer distance learning where coursework can be completed in your child’s own time at home. Courses are often run online, meaning that your child can choose their own schedule, obtain coursework, and hand in assignments simply by having an internet connection. Completing a short course also means that your child is able to work and earn money while studying at the same time.

Become a successful entrepreneur

Compared to many developed countries, South Africa is still relatively unsaturated when it comes to commercial offerings – so with the right idea, drive, and discipline, your child can be a successful entrepreneur with a thriving business. South Africa has a growing number of start-up incubators, which help entrepreneurs find the support and resources they need to build and maintain their business. This includes things like space to work, support from mentors, and a network with other entrepreneurs – as well as linking you with potential investors if your business idea is robust enough.