To move forward along your chosen career path to your dream job, you may need to improve your current skills or maybe get some new ones.
Maybe you need to skill up because you’re inexperienced and don’t have a lot of work-related skills yet, or perhaps you want to change direction and move into a different type of work that requires new skills. Or maybe you’ve been out of the workforce for a while and your skills need updating because they’re a bit rusty. Whatever the reason, there are lots of ways to skill up.
Skilling up through study
Studying is a great way to skill up, and there's lots of options in all sorts of different subject areas. Study options include vocational training and apprenticeships, university degrees and job-specific courses. Take a look at the following types of study, to find out more.
Courses are available at a range of levels, including school, certificate, diploma or degree. Some courses are nationally accredited, which means your qualification will be recognised all over Australia.
If you're skilling up in a completely new area, you might start with a Certificate II or III, or if you already have skills that you want to build on, a Certificate IV, Diploma or even degree might be the best choice. You might also be able to go for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) which means your existing skills and knowledge can count towards getting a qualification.
Training providers include schools, State colleges, TAFE colleges, universities and private training organisations.
Different training providers offer different courses, and some will specialise in a certain area such as automotive training or business courses.
It's best to find a training provider with good industry experience and up to date facilities and equipment.
Courses may be delivered face to face/in a classroom, online, via distance education or even a combination of ways. Some may include work placements so you get practical hands-on experience. You might be able to choose between full time and part time study.
Courses can last anything from a few hours to a few years. If you don’t want to study a course full time, you can often enrol part time. This could mean that a one year, full time course could take you two years to complete, for example.
Apprenticeships and traineeships|
You can undertake an apprenticeship or traineeship to become qualified or trained in a trade role such as a plumber, cabinet maker, hairdresser, mechanic or chef, or a non-trade role such as a tour guide, childcare worker, administration officer or laboratory assistant.
Apprenticeships are generally more trade-focused than traineeships, but both involve developing skills and knowledge while working under the supervision of an employer. They also include off the job training at school or college.
You receive a nationally recognised qualification when you finish your training.
Anita's skill up story
Anita left school part way through year 11 and is now 27 years old. She has two young kids and has been at home with them for the past 10 years, but now that the kids are both at school full time she's been thinking about starting a new career.
Take a look at Anita’s story to find out how she decided to skill up. Use the numbered buttons or the arrows to move through the slideshow.
Anita loves art and has been taking photos and doing portraits of friends in her spare time for years. She’s also made posters for her kids’ school and her partner’s footy club, and recently designed a logo for her friend’s business. She’s very involved with a local community arts program.
Anita loves art and being creative, and has decided that she would love to start a career in graphic design.
Anita’s been looking around online to find out what’s involved in getting started. She finds out she will have more career options if she gets a design qualification.
She does some more research online and discovers that there are several graphic design qualifications, including a Certificate IV in Design, a Diploma or Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design, a Bachelor of Creative Industries and a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design.
Anita reads the course information in detail, looking at things like:
- what skills and knowledge are covered in each course;
- how, where and when each course is delivered;
- how much each course costs;
- how long each course is; and
- what the entry requirements are for each course.
Apart from the course details, Anita also needs to think about:
- how she'll organise care for her children if any of her classes are outside of school hours;
- how to fit in paid work, class work and homework; and
- whether she can get any financial assistance.
Anita decides that she’d like to apply for a place in the Certificate IV in Design (Graphic Design) course. She chooses this option for several reasons:
- the course content sounds interesting and covers a range of design specialties including photography which she's very interested in;
- it’s been a long time since she studied and she’s not sure how she’ll go, so she doesn’t want to commit to more than a one year course;
- if she enjoys the Certificate IV and does well, she can then go on to a Diploma and then perhaps a Bachelor degree;
- this course costs less than the others; and
- the campus where this course is offered is closer to her home.
If you're going to skill up, it's worth spending a bit of time to explore the different study options that could help you along your path. Ways to do this include searching and reading online, reading handbooks or talking to training providers, attending open days, and meeting with career advisors. Remember you can also talk to us and we would be happy to help you choose the best study option.
Here are some websites that might help you.
Jobs and Skills WA – Find out about training options, and other advice available at your local Jobs and Skills Centre.
– this website has a load of information about occupations, qualifications and career pathways.
– information about what financial assistance you may be able to get to help with the cost of study.
– here you can find information about training courses.
In this video, you'll hear some stories of how three different people decided to skill up by doing some study, and how that helped them get into the job they're doing now. They also talk about what they found challenging about skilling up and share their experiences.
Applying to study
Once you’ve decided on the course, training provider and delivery method that best suit your needs, you may have to apply for a place. Applying to study can be like applying for a job – you need to prove you’re up to it and that you meet the entry requirements. Some courses are competitive, which means there's more applicants than places offered, so only the best applicants will get a place and some people will miss out.
Read through the following information to find out more about how to give yourself the best chance to get a place in the course you choose.
Some courses have specific entry requirements. These could be academic requirements, such as having achieved a certain mark in assessments, including literacy or maths, passing particular subjects or levels at school or having a certain qualification. They could involve practical tests, providing a portfolio of past work or attending an interview.
Entry requirements may differ between mature age applicants and school leavers. If you're worried about not meeting the entry requirements for a course, always talk to the training provider because you may have other things to offer, like previous work experience, that would make you eligible.
Recognition of prior learning (RPL)|
RPL is a process where a training organisation assesses your work, life experiences and previous study to determine if these can give you credit towards your study.
RPL can help you meet entry requirements or reduce the time it takes you to complete a course or qualification.
If you think RPL might be something you could be eligible for, talk to your local Jobs and Skills Centre and we can help you find out how to go about it.
The application process|
The application process varies depending on your circumstances, the course level, the training provider and the course delivery options.
Each training provider will be able to tell you what you need to do to apply for their courses, or talk to us at your local Jobs and Skills Centre and we can help you work it out.
What you’ll need|
Some of the things you may need when you apply include:
- personal identification (for example, your driver’s licence);
- proof of school results (such as a graduation certificate);
- proof of any previous study (such as results transcripts) and qualifications (such as a certificate);
- portfolio (for example, photographic work or designs);
- proof of work experience (including references or statements from employers);
- proof of residency status (such as a visa or a passport); and
- supporting documents for fee concessions (for example, a healthcare card or Centrelink statement).
Anita applies to skill up
Anita looks up how to enrol for the Certificate IV in Design (Graphic Design) course on the training provider's website. She finds out that she needs to meet entrance requirements and apply online for a place in the course. To see how she goes about getting in to her course, use the numbered buttons or the arrows to move through the slideshow and select the documents to have a closer look.
According to the website, the only educational entrance requirement for her course is ‘developed communication skills’. It says these can be demonstrated by a C grade in year 10 English, so Anita will need to get a copy of her year 10 school results to show she meets this entrance requirement. If she had proof of relevant work experience or had completed other studies, the college would possibly accept these as evidence of developed communication skills, but she has neither.
There are no other entrance requirements listed, except for a statement that says:
"Some courses may require you to submit a portfolio of your work. You will be told whether you need to do this or not once all applications have been received and assessed, after the closing date."
This means that it’s possible the college will use portfolios to help them choose who gets a place in the course. Anita has already started developing her portfolio and will need to make sure she has it ready – select her portfolio to take a look at some of the design work that she's got in there so far, and you'll see she's selected a few different styles of design that show the kind of work she's able to do.
Anita looks through the online application form to see what information and documents she needs to complete the application.
She sees she has to provide:
- personal details, including an email address;
- details and evidence of previous studies;
- a list of work experience; and
- her resumé.
Documents and evidence
Anita lists her year 10 subjects and results, and attaches the statement of results from school as proof.
Next she describes her work experience. Although Anita has never had a full time job, she has done some part time, casual and voluntary work. She has also produced designs for friends and local organisations, so she includes information about all of this in the work experience section of the form.
As proof of her skills and experience in the commercial area, she attaches a reference from a client she worked with. In this reference, the client also describes the skills Anita showed during the process – select the picture to take a look.
Anita gets in touch with the two people she’s listed as referees to confirm they are happy to be a referee for her. She tells them what she is applying for so that they will be ready to describe her talents if the training provider contacts them. Select the picture of Anita's resumé to take a closer look at how she's put it together.
Check the application
Before submitting her application, Anita asks a friend she trusts to read through it and check all the documents she’s included, to make sure everything has been filled in correctly and reads well.
If you don't have someone who could check your application out for you, talk to us at your local Jobs and Skills Centre.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Different courses, training providers or universities have their own entrance requirements and processes. These may vary depending on how much competition there is for places, so make sure you do your research. If you're uncertain or confused by any of the information you find, contact the place directly to check information. And remember; if you don't meet the entrance requirements needed for a course, you may have other things to offer, such as work experience, that may improve your chances so it's always worth asking.
If there’s anything you can’t find out, or if you're even the slightest bit confused about how to apply, talk to us at your local Jobs and Skills Centre.
How we can help
We can help you discover courses to get you skilled up. We are up to date with what's happening around Western Australia with training courses and training providers, and we can help you work through all the information that's out there.
We can keep you informed about what's happening in training, or contact us to find out how we can help you skill up through study.
Register with AWDCContact AWDC
Skilling up through work experience
Work experience is another great way you can skill up and progress along your chosen career path. Work experience is exactly what it sounds like – experience you gain while working. Work experience may also include work that is unpaid. For example, if a business doesn’t have any vacancies or doesn’t need any more employees but is willing to let you work there to develop new skills, you may be ok with doing that without getting paid. But don't let that put you off, because the benefits you can get from doing work experience can be very valuable and it looks great on your resumé.
Benefits of work experience
- The more work experience you have, the more skills you are likely to develop.
- You get to meet new people and learn about how workplaces function – this helps build your people skills.
- A potential employer can see your work experience as evidence of what you’re capable of, which may make them more likely to employ you.
- You may be able to ask your work experience employer or manager to be a referee for you, which will help with job applications.
- Work experience can strengthen your application if you want to study, because you'll have real hands-on experience.
- Gaining work experience can also give you more confidence; this can be helpful in all kinds of situations, including job interviews.
How to gain work experience
You might need to take a job doing something that’s not exactly the work you want to do in the future, just to help you advance along your chosen path. Remember that every experience is a learning opportunity. Use the numbered buttons or the arrows underneath the slides to move through the slideshow to see some examples of how work experience can be used as a starting point for your career journey.
Want to work in a world-renowned hotel or resort? Start at a smaller, less famous place and learn everything you can while you're there.
Want to set up your own café one day? Learn the ropes at a local coffee bar to find out what it's like and what's involved in running a café.
Want to own an auto repairs business in the future? Try helping out a local mechanic to get some hands-on experience.
Having that kind of experience will make you much more confident when it comes time to go for that dream of owning your own business.
Do something related
Really want to design unique and amazing buildings? Perfect your computer skills drawing for a small building company, then you can transfer these skills and knowledge when the right opportunity comes up.
You'll be designing skyscrapers before you know it!
Get a start
Want to get a job as a lawyer in a law firm but having no success? Try applying for positions such as a clerk or paralegal with a view to working your way up.
Most people who are now in a professional role will tell you they started with something lower level and then worked their way up the ladder over a few years as their skills and experience grew.
Get an internship
An internship is work experience or on the job training done while studying for a professional, managerial or office career – similar to how people studying trades qualifications do an apprenticeship. An internship can be done by high school students as well as those studying at college or university.
Internships are generally short term, between one to three months, and are usually unpaid. They may lead to employment with the company but there’s no guarantee of this. An internship is a great addition to your resumé.
Skilling up by volunteering
Volunteering is also work experience. It involves giving your time to a group, organisation or individual to help them – usually for free. People most often volunteer for not for profit organisations or community groups like the RSPCA, hospitals or aged care homes, the local firefighters or an environmental organisation. It could even be something as small and close to home as a local sports club, school or toy library. Volunteers can also work overseas in roles like assisting medical services, conservation causes or education projects.
People volunteer for all kinds of reasons:
- to do something for someone else;
- to feel good about themselves;
- to gain skills and experience;
- for fun or to go somewhere new;
- to help a cause they think is important;
- to gain contacts for possible employment; or
- to give back to society.
Volunteering can help you gain valuable knowledge, skills, experience and contacts while you're getting work experience and progressing along your career path.
Getting started in volunteering
If there's a particular person or organisation you would like to volunteer with, get in touch with them directly to see if they have any opportunities. You could also look at your local newspaper or community noticeboard, or check out an organisation that advertises volunteering vacancies on behalf of different groups and causes, listing them all in one place. Here's some websites you could look at to see what's out there.
Skill up through self employment
Getting started in self employment
Self employment isn't something you can just go and do – it needs careful thought and planning, and must be set up properly. Do some research to find out if people are likely to want the product or service you're offering, or if there's already something like that in your local area. Your business needs clients to be successful.
Talk to people who can help you; they could be friends and family, or even organisations set up specifically to help people who want to start their own business. Find out anything they know that’s relevant to the business you want to start. Check out these websites for some more info.
Indigenous Business Australia
Starting a Business
Time for Tom to skill up
Take a look at Tom’s story to find out how he decided to skill up. Use the numbered buttons or the arrows underneath the slides to move through the slideshow, and select the documents to have a closer look.
Tom's now 22, he grew up in the bush and finished school at the end of year 10. He loves nature and being outdoors. For the past five years he's done a bit of lawn mowing, garden clean-ups and other odd jobs, and has been unemployed for a while.
Tom would love to work in the gardens at Kings Park but has no idea how to make this happen or if it's even possible.
Tom spends a lot of time trying to figure out what he should do next to help him move towards his goal, but he really doesn't know where to start.
His dream job seems so far away from what he’s doing now that he starts to question whether he would even like it or if he’s got any chance at all of getting that kind of job. After being unemployed for so long, Tom doesn't feel like he's got a lot of confidence in himself.
In town one day Tom bumps into an old mate, Stephen, who he’s known since they were kids. Stephen asks Tom how he’s doing and tells him a bit about what’s been happening in his life. Stephen works in horticulture, at a local nature reserve. They go for a drive to where Stephen works and Tom gets a tour of the reserve.
Stephen soon notices that Tom is feeling a bit lost about his career path and really needs a mate to talk to, so he suggests they sit down for a yarn. Stephen tells him that while he could struggle along by himself, there's places out there with local services that specialise in helping people to figure out how to get on to their career path. Tom feels a lot better after the yarn with Stephen, and reckons maybe these places might be able to offer some really good advice to help kick-start his career.
The next day, Tom goes along to his local Jobs and Skills Centre for a chat with Nate about what options are available. By the end of the meeting, Tom realises he needs to find out more about working in the horticultural industry and that the best way to do this would be by getting some unpaid work experience locally. Tom makes an appointment to come back to the centre in a couple of days to get some help writing his resumé so he can start applying for work experience positions.
During his second visit to the Jobs and Skills Centre, Nate helps Tom create a great resumé that lists his employment history and describes the work he did in each job. They also include Tom’s career goal, which gives potential employers a more complete picture of what he's all about. Select the picture to check out Tom's resumé and see how it turned out.
With Tom's permission, the Jobs and Skills Centre passes his details on to three local horticultural businesses who they think may be willing to give Tom a go.
A week later, Tom gets the call he’s been hoping for – he’s offered a work experience opportunity at a local nursery and they want him to start as soon as possible. At last Tom is making a start on his path, and this work experience is just the boost he needs to get skilled up and closer to that job at Kings Park.
How we can help
So you can see from all these people's stories that there are lots of ways to skill up depending on your goals, and lots of places to go for help. Remember we can help you with all aspects of skilling up. We can link you with local employers offering work experience, and you can also get on to our jobs board to see what employment opportunities are out there.
Register with AWDCContact AWDC
If you’re ready to move on, check out the next page in this jobseekers section –
Get a job – which explores what's involved in getting out there and getting that job you want.