Should you take a gap year?
Not sure what to do after high school? Thinking of a career change? Does the thought of going straight back into uni or trade not appeal to you? Then a gap year might be the perfect answer.
81% of participants in the United States Gap Year Association’s survey for 2019 recommended a gap year to anyone considering it. According to adviser voice, approximately 25% of Australian students who complete high school will take a gap year before going on to further study.
What is a gap year?
A gap year is a year-long break from academic studies so a student can travel, work, and/or gain new skills. A gap year from study to work is also the only way to gain independence and the Youth Allowance, which can help fund your ongoing study.
According to the ABC, About 50% of working Australians want to change careers, but two-thirds of that total don’t know where to start. Some older working-age people also take a gap year as a sabbatical from work, travel, or prepare for a career change.
What to do in a gap year
Though there is a perception that a gap year is all fun and leisure, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For most university and tertiary education institutions, students can defer their entry into their chosen course for a year, leaving them free to take up other pursuits such as work or travel.
According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, the most common activity for gap year students was work – either part-time (28%) or full time (23%). 10% were in training of some kind. Only about 6% go abroad. As for mid-career changers, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 90,000 students above the age of 25 enrolled at university between 2011 and 2016.
Can a gap year make students more successful?
Research from the NCVER report suggests that “employers value the diverse experiences of graduates who have worked or volunteered during a gap year” as this builds their soft skills, or skills that cannot be developed with academic or theoretical study.
“employers value the diverse experiences of graduates who have worked or volunteered during a gap year”
Soft skills such as personal interaction, social skills, emotional intelligence, empathy, positivity, teamwork, agreeability, and flexibility are all attributes that employers look for over candidates who may not have developed these skills in a classroom setting.
What to do in a gap year for students
Since gap year students are fresh out of high school and may not have much work experience, gap year students usually fall into casual or entry-level jobs. Older people may want similar, flexible jobs which they can fit around family and study.
These jobs may include labouring, fruit-picking, administration assistance, hospitality, retail, or seasonal work such as on ski resorts or holiday retreats as wait staff, tour guides, or instructors.
Another popular option is helping on a farm or station in regional areas as a jackaroo or jillaroo. These are essentially “apprentice” positions on a cattle or sheep station to build up skills and experience.
Competition for these jobs can be quite high as overseas gap students may also be looking for placements in such positions.
Taking your gap year in ADF (Australian Defence Force)
A popular option for Australians of all ages is to join the ADF Gap Year Program. This a program within the Army, Navy, or Air Force which provides an opportunity to earn tax-free income, real-world skills, and opportunities that are usually not available in civilian life.
A gap year in ADF can entitle you to an average $45,666 per year (as of February 2020 on Adzuna) – which is tax-free – while all your basic living and health expenses are taken care of.
These gap year jobs give you the option to return to your studies after completing your 12-month commitment or continue your career in the Army, Navy or the Air Force.
There is also no competition from overseas students as you must be an Australian Citizen to apply for the ADF Gap Year Program.
What you can do in the Army, Navy and Air Force
Some of the jobs in the Navy that give you on-the-job training are Marine Engineer, Maritime Warfare Officer, Warehouse Storeperson, Helicopter Pilot, Electronics Engineer, and Maritime Aviation Warfare Officer.
Other jobs that come up regularly are leadership, engineering, security, cabin crew, electronics, and recruitment. There are 26 fields to choose from across all three branches of Defence if you are considering a career in the Australian defence force
These aren’t your typical 9-to-5 jobs either; they are accompanied by basic military training, field training, and for some, officer training. You aren’t bound to the base either; whatever leisure time you have is yours to play with.
As far as soft skills go, Defence teaches leadership, discipline, teamwork, and self-motivation which are all highly prized among employers.
If you’re considering a gap year, there are many opportunities to grow and lead out there – check out more ADF gap year jobs on Adzuna below