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An Open Letter to All the Young People Struggling at School

 

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I want to share my story as I know it is a common one for young people in Australia today.

 

According to a survey by Mission Australia more than 20% of young people aged 15 - 19 listed mental health among their top national issues with females twice as likely to report mental health issues than males. Additionally, bullying is reportedly experienced by more than 25% of school aged people in Australia, one of the highest rates in the world. In addition, young people are being asked to prepare themselves for jobs that don’t even exist yet at the same time, are faced with tremendous uncertainty as the workforce continues to evolve at a pace never seen before. These factors add up to a significant proportion of young people in Australia who feel as though they are struggling at school.

I am an average Australian male. Born in Melbourne, I grew up in a supportive, middle class family and attended a good high school. Halfway through I decided to change schools due to bullying. I was passionate about music and loved to spend time with my friends. However, during years 11 and 12 I had no ideas about what I wanted to do when I graduated. Like many young people I had mental health problems, specifically, anxiety and I lacked motivation and especially aspiration. I ended up graduating high school with an ATAR of 40.5, “at least I passed”, I thought to myself.

After year 12, following a rough start, I completed a 2-year TAFE course in electronic engineering however decided that, despite an interest in the field, I was more interested in the Arts and working with people instead. I went on to study honours in sociology and then a master in social work. I worked part-time whilst studying to support myself.

I can say, that whilst it did take me some time to figure out where I wanted to be in terms of my career, I have found my place. I got here by trial and error, by working and volunteering, talking and observing.

Luckily, for young people today, the state and federal governments have thought about the future of work and are funding and facilitating several programs to help things go more smoothly (see the links at the end of this article). Many of these programs weren’t available when I was finishing up with school a decade ago (I wish they were!), so I encourage any young people to take advantage of all the support out there, and let your friends know too!

Another positive fact for young people is that only a quarter of undergraduate university admissions for domestic students are made based on an ATAR. So, whilst important, your ATAR isn’t the be all and end all! For the clear majority of us lucky enough to be born in Australia, there will truly always be options to pursue your dreams. Did you know that many large companies such as Apple and Ernst & Young have got rid of or lowered their degree requirements? The point is, there are opportunities out there, and with the right support and effort you will succeed.

If you don’t know what your dream career is yet, volunteering is a great way to sample different areas and it looks great on your resume. I encourage you to get out there, and if you need guidance and motivation, aspiration or are struggling, seek help, check out the links below and get in contact. If you know someone who needs help, share this with them and most of all, believe you will get there! I did, and I’m no different than anyone else.

Helpful links

https://kidshelpline.com.au/ - Free phone counselling and lots more for people aged 5 - 25.

http://headspace.org.au - Offering a wide range of free supports including mental health for young people.

https://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/programs/pathways/skillsandjobscentres/Pages/default.aspx - offering free career and education advice.

https://www.vic.gov.au/government-economy/local-councils/victorian-local-councils.html - Your local council will have a wide range of supports, workshops and programs for young people.

https://learnlocal.org.au/ - Learn Locals are are located across Victoria and offer a wide range of courses, workshops and supports.

 

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Outer Eastern Local Learning & Employment Network

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