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Any journey from childhood to adulthood is a long one. Would a mentor help?

If you tell a 14 year old to start working with a mentor, expect a negative reaction. 

As they emerge from the chrysalis of childhood, 14 year old’s want to be responsible for what they do themselves. They want to work towards the future with their peers.

They do not want to engage with an authority figure of YOUR choice. Friendships are never more important than in the vital mid teenage years. 

If you think kids would benefit from having a  mentor, you need to:

  • match the kid to the right mentor program, then
  • help those kids to be clear and enthusiastic about wanting a mentor. 

Sport Coaches

The idea of having a coach, rather than a mentor, might be more familiar to kids.

The coach and the team are all working towards a single purpose. 

Students who play sport could tell you that their coach:

  • has superior knowledge in their field
  • suggests ways that they can improve 
  • will offer words of encouragement
  • sets clear boundaries
  • can be trusted 
  • helps them to set clear goals

What motivates the coach?

Kids know WHY the coach is there, it could be their love of the game, maybe their kids play in the team, maybe they played for the team at one stage.

Kids don’t know WHY a mentor is there.

They will be asking:

  • why would a total stranger would want to get to know me?
  • what is the payoff for this stranger?
  • what is the purpose of the relationship?
  • is it safe?

When they are clear about all these things, then they need to learn that the mentor:

  • will be working with them towards an agreed purpose
  • has superior knowledge in their field
  • suggests ways that they can improve 
  • will offer words of encouragement
  • sets clear boundaries
  • can be trusted 
  • helps them to set clear goals

How are mentors different?

If you want a one on one approach to help you to identify and achieve goals, a designated mentor could be your answer. A mentor will provide guidance and support, just to you.

Establishing trusted one on one relationships is more difficult with a mentor than with a coach as part of a team. You will need to work harder to establish a relationship with a mentor.

There are lots of mentor services in Perth. Many have a specific focus.

Here are some of them.

I will build on this map as people let me know about more mentoring services in WA.

You can choose different mentors for different purposes.


No-one seems to be focusing on the significant long term impacts of COVID that middle school students experienced just as they were leaving the comfort of childhood. 

I hope that by providing an environment, rich in ideas and opportunities, middle school students will be able to progress through a scaffolded approach to adulthood. It will take conscious and deliberate effort to engage…. if they are to arrive as confused, disoriented and bewildered as the rest of us.bewilder



In the Boredom Breakers blog which I wrote last week, I provide a range of opportunities that young people could choose to explore as they move along the long path from childhood to adulthood . All of those suggestions have a leader who will be a bit like a sport coach. 

To keep up to speed with career opportunities emerging in Western Australia, subscribe to In Focus Careers News

Bev Johnson Director, In Focus Careers
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Leaving School Early IS AN OPTION

If you hate school, leaving IS AN OPTION. There is no point hanging around at school if you hate it.

Leave School Early

If you are worried that you won’t ever get into uni, you need to know that only 26% of uni students go straight there via the ATAR pathway.  Most university students get there through some other pathway.

If you are worried that you won’t ever get a well paid job, you need to find out about modern trends in lifelong learning and careers.

Good things about leaving school

Happiness is leaving school


  • You will feel better.

  • You will make new friends.

  • You will discover new things to enjoy.

Don’t jump too quickly

Don’t wait until you are ready to leave to start preparing. (If you are in Year 9 see the tips below.)

As soon as you start thinking of leaving school, talk to a career advisor. They  can help you to:

  • Do career quizzes and narrow down the jobs you would like.
  • Explore different jobs through VET courses and work experience.
  • Develop your work readiness and job application skills through part-time work and volunteering
  • Link you with appropriate support services that can support you as you leave school.

If you don’t have a school career advisor, go to a Jobs and Skills Centre for free career advice.

If you live in the Wanneroo or Armadale areas, engage with the Industry Training Hub. 

Each Training Hub is managed by a full-time Career Facilitator, providing an on-the-ground presence while delivering Training Hub services.

Career Facilitators work with and encourage young people to build skills and choose occupations in demand in their region, creating better linkages between schools and local industry, repositioning vocational education and training as a first-choice option. 

They mainly focus on year 11 and 12s but if you are in Year 10 you may be able to engage with their services. 

How to leave school

  • Arrange a full-time job, enrol in a full-time course or organise a combination of both. 
  • Get your parents to fill out and sign a Notice of Arrangement which details what you will do if you get permission to leave school.

The Notice of Arrangement is forwarded by your school to the Minister for Education for consideration. 

You will be informed of the Minister’s decision. It won’t be a straight “no”. You will either have your application approved, or you will be told what extra things you need to do in order to get approval. 

How old do I have to be to leave school?

In Western Australia you must stay at school until you finish Year 10, then you can get special permission to leave school before you finish Year 12 if you have:

                  1. a full time job or
                  2. full time study

Or a combination of both.

  1. Job

In most cases you need to be 15 to be employed or 13 to work in a fast food outlet. (There are exceptions to this. You can see details of the exceptions HERE.)

Tell people you want a job.

You can get a job through family and friends, through volunteering and impressing employers, through work experience and through part time work. 

2. Study

    • No OLNA or English Qualification?:

There are foundation and introductory courses at TAFE that do not have any English or maths requirements. You can be accepted into some of these courses while you are still of school age.

Go to a Jobs and Skills Centre for information about the courses that are available and which course would be best for you.

    • Year 11 or 12:

If you are okay academically but don’t want to go to school, go to a Jobs and Skills Centre and do an aptitude test, talk to a counsellor and get advice about your study options. 

3. Work and Study

If you get an apprenticeship or traineeship you will be doing on the job and off the job training.

You may be able to start studying a part time VET course now, and combine your study with a part time job. 

Common pathways from school

You can end up ahead of your friends who complete their WACE if you start a VET course early. You can do a Certificate II in Health Support Services and follow through with higher studies in the health sector.


Common pathway from school

You can’t go wrong with qualifications in computing, particularly if you have a detailed, problem solving brain.


Middle School

If you are in Middle School and you are hating school:

  • Talk with your friends about what to do
  • Check with a career counsellor 
  • If you care for a family member, get support from Young-Carers
  • Go to your closest Jobs and Skills Centre to find out about alternatives to school in your area. They have information about courses and about jobs.

Year 9

The new Career Taster Program in WA schools gives Year 9s the chance to learn about opportunities after school. Through the Taster Program you will meet workers who will tell you about what their work involves. 

Through your contacts you may get additional volunteer experience, or a part time job. 

Summing Up

If you want to leave school early, don’t just jump. There are people and services around to help you to smooth your path into a life that you find much more fun than school.

  • Start to check out possible jobs. 
  • Investigate some of the services about in the mind map.
  • Start to talk to people who will help you to start your new life.

Good luck with your new adventures. 

Discover More

There are outstanding teachers in all disciplines in Western Australia, but great teaching doesn’t lead students to make great career choices.  Career Educators are the light on the hill that students and families need. 

Subscribe to In Focus Careers 

Keep up to date with the latest career opportunities in Western Australia.

Bev Johnson Director, In Focus Careers
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Your mind map to reaching your potential in middle school

You would think there was SOMETHING for everyone at high school, but what if there is nothing for you?

If you haven’t found where you belong in the chess club or the swimming club or in the choir, look outside school.  One of these could be the place where you might have some interesting experiences. 

Check out these opportunities for exploring your world in middle school.

Duke of Edinburgh

Duke of Edinburgh
Duke of Edinburgh Awards

Discover Your Potential

Age: 14 – 24 There are 4 sections:

1.      Adventurous Journey

2.      Physical Recreation

3.       SkillsVoluntary Service

4.       Gold Residential Project



Coding for Fun

Ages 7 – 17

Run by volunteers in libraries, unis and community centres. Young people and volunteers get together to learn to play with coding.

WAAPA Short Courses


Age 6 – 18

Acting, music and dance short courses are run on weekends and holidays.  There are classes for young kids through to those who already have some experience.

Australian Youth Mentoring Network

Youth Mentoring

Get a mentor. Their support can change your life. There are often more mentors offering services than students wanting to engage.

Local Government Youth Programs

Government Youth Programs

Every local government council has youth programs. Check out your local government to see what it has on offer.



Age: 12 – 19

Fun with Robots

Teams make and program robots and compete in different challenges. This is big in WA and the kids seem to have a great time.

Santos Science Experience

Age: 13 – 15

The Santos Science Experience is a fun 3 or 4 days of science activities for Year 9 and 10 students.

Subscribe to In Focus Careers News

Keep up to date with emerging career opportunities in Western Australia.

Subscribe to In Focus Careers News and share the information across your school community. 

Cover of February 2022

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