Students at McCarthy Catholic College don't have to choose between the HSC and a trade.
A trade training centre was built at the Emu Plains school in 2010 to help reduce the attrition rate of first year apprentices and give students the extended literacy and communication skills that come with study to year 12.
"We split the first year of an apprenticeship over two years to address that drop-out rate where 50 per cent of first year apprentices fail," said assistant principal John Wills.
"We've had a 97 per cent success rate of students going into their second year.
"On site we have up to nine trades — including automotive, metal fabrication, carpentry, bricklaying, hairdressing, hospitality, childcare — and some of our students do plumbing and landscaping and other things off-site.
Mr Wills said it was a priority for trade students to be able to complete their HSC.
‘‘That helps them improve their literacy and numeracy skills and be more successful once they’ve finished school,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s also great for them to get an understanding of what the industry they’ve chosen to get into is like with the support of individual teachers.
‘‘For the electricians it’s a very maths-based course, so their trade teachers are talking to their maths teacher and supporting them in that way as well.
‘‘It’s that relevancy, and they can see the results straight away.’’
Year 12 student Tim Lonergan, 17, is an electrical apprentice at Stowe Australia. He balances HSC study with one day a week trade training and full-time work block releases for two weeks during school term.
He and his peers at McCarthy did the electrical insulation for a house frame carpentry students built.
"It's challenging and I'm really enjoying it," Tim said.
"You have to do a lot of different formulas in electrical. There is heaps of algebra in it and we've done that in maths for the past two years so it's good."
Loyola Senior High School at Mt Druitt offers 11 trades at its trade training centre, which also opened in 2010.
Director Tammy Prestage said about 60 per cent of the school's students opted to make use of the centre, with 97 per cent completing their first year of an apprenticeship.
"It's a great way of combining HSC with a start for the future," Mrs Prestage said.
Just over 3 per cent of all NSW apprentices in 2013 were school-based, about 2,200 individuals.
Projected attrition rates for apprentice contracts signed in 2011-2013 are:
50.8 per cent in construction trades
63.3 per cent of hairdressers
28.1 per cent in farm, forestry and gardening.
41.7 per cent in hospitality.
Source: National Centre for Vocational Education and Research.