Brewing up new horizons: the benefits of short courses for teenagers

From finding a new hobby to discovering a job, careers expert Helen Green explains the many benefits of teenagers embarking on short courses.

Has your teenager enrolled in a short course or considered taking one? With a multitude of providers and courses to choose from offering flexible learning formats, short courses are now more accessible and relevant for young people.

The potential benefits of short courses for secondary school students and recent school leavers include uncovering a new hobby, socialising with adults, gaining valuable life skills or ‘tickets’ to help secure casual work, confidence building and importantly – helping uncover fields of potential interest. Many short courses are available to teenagers aged 16 and over.

Check the Fine Print and Assess your Needs

Before committing to any short course, be mindful of promotional promises and consider your child’s objectives. Costs can vary considerably for what is often a very similar program, so it pays to research and compare.

Always check the fine print, including cancellation policies, delivery, format, teacher credentials, course assessment, reputation of the provider, whether the course is industry endorsed and very importantly  – what prior knowledge is assumed.

It could be very counterproductive if, for example, your 16-year-old is enrolled in a course pitched at a level beyond them. You might ask whether there will be other young people taking the short course and whether safety checks are in place, such as instructors having a Working with Children Checks.

A Career Exploration Tool

A well-chosen short course can provide a snapshot of what it might be like studying or working in an industry. For instance, if your child is showing interest in working in the emergency services or allied health sector, why not encourage them to enrol in a first aid course.

I recently saw a young client taking a gap year who had multiple interests in very different fields and was feeling very confused. Taking a few short courses at various campuses was one of the strategies that helped him confirm his interests and what work environment would suit him best. Some educational institutions offer introductory short courses and are well worth a look.

Of course, taking a short course in a new field should only form part of their investigations, alongside other research that should include speaking to people working in sectors of interest, attending university and TAFE Open Days, and assessing their skills, values, strengths and goals.

There are multiple resources available to assist young people with this, including consulting a qualified careers practitioner at their school or elsewhere, undertaking vocational testing, and jumping online to access some of the many useful career planning web resources. These include my future, SkillsroadJob Outlook, Youth Central and the New Work Smarts Report, from the Foundation for Youth Australia).

A Pathway to Further Study and Training

For young people who have recently completed secondary school and might be taking a gap year, a strategically chosen short course can help them get started on a pathway.  Enrolling in a single unit of study at university, alongside some part time work or volunteering, can be a good move for some students and a confidence booster.

Many educational institutions will credit progressive study to the relevant undergraduate degree or diploma. Taking a single subject can also help students confirm whether pursuing further study in that field is the right decision for them. This option is also relevant for school leavers who may have missed out on securing a place in their preferred course.

Boosting a CV and Helping Land Part-time a Job

A short course can also help teenagers secure a part time job or a worthwhile voluntary position. They might learn how to make a decent coffee (a superb skill), take a food handling course, learn first aid, attain an Responsible Serving of Alcohol (RSA) certificate (if 18), learn more about the music industry or perfect their language skills. Apart from learning a new skill, short courses add to their CV.  Why not encourage them to bring a friend or two? Thinking back to my 16-year-old self, I’d have wanted some company for moral support.

An Introduction to Networking

Short courses often bring together people from diverse educational, social and cultural backgrounds. Chances are they will meet someone interested in or currently working in the field – potentially an employer. Insight is everything. With communication skills and teamwork increasingly important skills at work, it makes sense to develop these skills early.  I have met some fabulous people taking courses directly or indirectly related to my work or study.

Develop a Hobby – What are they Interested In?

Imagine finding a hidden talent or interest that inspires them, makes them laugh, challenges them and adds to their life in some way. This is as good a reason as any to give something new a try. I have recently started meditation classes. I wish I’d done this when I was in Year 12 as it would have really helped me.

A final word on short courses: be realistic about their strengths and limitations. A short course does not make anyone an expert, but they can deliver benefits.

Like this post? Please share using the buttons on this page.


About Helen Green

Helen Green is a careers practitioner and writer. She is Director of Career Confident in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs. Helen is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia.