Is a degree necessary?

Some thoughts about pathways to employment in NZ

NEW 2019 article

I’m not the only school leaver wondering if a degree agrees with me

Number of roles don’t require education past secondary school

Opinion: There are more options for teens than tertiary study

What’s the most common question you’re asked as a teenager?


By: Sonya Bateson

“What do you want to study at university?”

That was one of the most common questions I was asked as a teenager.

Not “What do you want to do when you leave school?” or “What job will you get after high school?”

The only other question I got nearly as frequently was: “Are you going to take a gap year, or go straight into study?’

I always did well at school so it was automatically assumed that I’d be heading off to university. And I did.

When I got there, I hated it.

Some of my papers were riveting, and others I could barely keep my eyes open for.

The food was yuck, the textbooks expensive, and I hated having to share a bathroom with five other people.

The lack of routine threw me, as did suddenly becoming responsible for all the minutiae of adult life.

I made it through one year and never went back, with a mountain of student debt hanging over my head.

It took me until I was 21 to figure out what I wanted to do, then I chose to go to polytech to study.

It was 9am-3pm each day, 18 months rather than three years, and had a heavy focus on practical skills.

By then, I’d grown up a bit and knew a lot more about the adult world – although I still had a lot to learn.

I only wish I’d known earlier that university wasn’t the be all and end all.

It seems today’s teens are picking up that life lesson a lot quicker than I did.

As reported in the Herald on Wednesday, Ministry of Education data show the numbers of students leaving school aged 17 or under jumped by 8 per cent last year to 34,763.

Ministry deputy secretary Dr Craig Jones said there was an increase of 1.5 per cent in the employment of 15 to 19-year-olds in 2017.

Going straight into the workforce is a fantastic option for many teens, particularly if they’re going into an apprenticeship.

You don’t need to go to university to get a great job or have a fulfilling career – and it’s pleasing to see this is being recognised.