1 December 2020

Students upbeat about job prospects

Picture of David Ahern

David Ahern

Current editor of The Majellan, David has spent more than 40 years as an editor/journalist

When my boys were younger, grocery shopping almost always felt like a painful ordeal. Shopping with a four-year-old and a one year old in tow was highly stressful and fraught with difficulty. I remember my best shopping days back then, however, were when complete strangers would let me push in on the supermarket line or when they would entertain my boys while I concentrated on paying the bill. The school year for students, teachers and parents has been difficult with COVID-19 presenting all sorts of challenges including remote learning. Melbourne, more than any other city or town in Australia, struggled with a second serious lockdown.

Majellan asked senior students at two Melbourne schools how they coped in 2020. St John’s Regional College in Dandenong and Star of the Sea College, Brighton responded to our questions. How has the virus affected your studies this year? How has your education been affected? Do you think you’ve missed out on anything? And do you have concerns for your future job prospects, whether it be at university, a trade, or something else?

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, students remain positive about their employment outlook.

St John’s 2020 college captain Aker Mawith said the year was mentally taxing. “Studying at home was a challenge, learning to adapt to the new solitude. There were no guarantees that the internet wouldn’t just cut out halfway during a class, or it wouldn’t be slow, you just had to deal with it. The environment was just so different to being at school,” she said.

“You know there are concerns but I believe there is always a rainbow after the storm. In the end everything will pull through for every single one of us who have worked hard to get to where we are today. Many opportunities will be still there for us and open up in 2021.”

Fellow St John’s student Hriday Nayyer said the positivity that normally “surrounded people was harder to find” this year. “People looking for socialisation and interactions are now confined in solitude to find solutions to these challenges in their own space,” he said.

“On a happier note, my way of studying during this pandemic has given me confidence during remote learning. The surroundings, the teachers, my family around my space of learning all provided a sense of dedication and motivation of getting into a really good shape for my exams.

“Every challenge provides a lesson to be learned. Similarly, the process of remote learning and working from home has provided me (with) some great lessons about organisation, planning and staying positive which are all important for life at university,” said Hriday.

Star of the Sea college co-captains for 2021, Lucy Corcoran and Charlotte McCormack, agree that working from home has been challenging. “Being confined to your bedroom whilst attempting to uphold a usual school routine has meant we’ve had to plan our day and find a way to distinguish between home and school life, whilst trying to find downtime away from our screens,” they said.

“In attempting to complete a term of school at home, whether we are embarking on our high school journey in Year 7 or delving into VCE, we’ve all developed a sense of independence and lateral thinking that we haven’t had to use before. For those completing VCE, this year has proven to be an additional road bump in an already challenging two years where we would usually draw on each other to keep us motivated. We’ve all missed the interactions with friends and teachers, particularly in hands-on subjects where collaboration and discussion are an essential element for success.”

Maria Hinen, St John’s 2021 school captain said, “Remote learning has often been beneficial to me as it cut down on transport time and so it has allowed me to get a few more hours of study but also to spend more time with my family.

“I don’t believe that I have missed out on any learning as a result of remote learning and it has certainly not affected my future aspirations and job prospects. This extraordinary journey on the contrary has molded us into stronger, wiser individuals and has made us more grateful for all the things we took for granted, such as seeing friends and having meaningful interactions.

“I move forward with optimism, taking ownership of my direction in life and having hope knowing that all the opportunities that I have aspired to are still there for me if I continue to have ‘the courage to reach for the stars’ as our college motto says.”    

Star of the Sea students Lucy Corcoran and Charlotte McCormack also retain a sense of optimism. “Teachers and student leaders at Star worked hard to foster a continuing connection to the school through online activities such as a Strava walking competition and a virtual ‘Star’s Got Talent’ show, demonstrating our ability as a school to adapt and be resilient.

“With school being such a big part of our lives, we’ve all felt affected by this year, but we have never felt short of support throughout the pandemic and can already feel ourselves bouncing back into the swing of normalcy, confident that we are ready for 2021 and anything it will throw at us.”

And it’s not only the students who have learned much in isolation. St John’s principal Tim Hogan said teachers would become better teachers as a result of the experience. “One huge positive for us is we need to listen really closely to our student voice … to what students are seeking with the learning environment,” he said.

“However, the joy and benefit of human interaction which we have all missed and have been so evident on the faces of our students and staff as they returned in term 4 indicates to me that life has not been the same over the last six months.

“The spice of life which comes from human interactions, all the little things that we do together, it is this absence that has resulted in a very bland way of living and learning. It is not the way we want school to be in the future.

“As the 2020 school year draws to a close the St John’s Regional College community is moving forward full of hope. We farewell our senior students knowing that the opportunities and pathways they had dreamed about in the TAFE and University sector will still be available to them through hard work and commitment,” Mr Hogan added.

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