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What is VCAL?

Coming up to your senior year of high school, you might be beginning to think about your future pathways.
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One of these pathways is the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), a hands-on form of study that is unlike a traditional classroom, focusing more on preparing you for the workforce. Offered to Year 10, 11 and 12 students, VCAL is a minimum one-year course. If you’d like to learn more about your options, read on to learn the inner workings of VCAL, including how this pathway is structured and how it differs from the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). We’ll also cover information on the different VCAL courses offered at SWTAFE and how you can qualify for entry.

What does VCAL stand for?

The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), is offered to students as an alternative to Years 10, 11 and 12 and is a fantastic hands-on learning opportunity for students who intend to move forward into TAFE in a specified field. VCAL lets you explore your independent interests and tailor your learning accordingly. Completing VCAL will also prepare you for further studies at TAFE or university, an apprenticeship or traineeship, or employment.

How does VCAL work?

Completed in a minimum of one year (or a total of 1000 hours), VCAL offers three different levels, each of which covers core units in literacy, numeracy, industry-specific skills and personal development skills. The three course levels, Foundation, Intermediate and Senior, offer students the flexibility to complete a VCAL level suitable to them. These levels are then further tailored into a learning plan through consultation with a member of the VCAL team or one of our course advisors at SWTAFE’s Skills and Jobs Centre. Students should be prepared to undertake a work placement as part of the VCAL program.

To complete VCAL, students must complete a minimum of 10 semester units to a satisfactory level. You may also be eligible for credits from previous levels. You can explore these options through discussion with your course advisor.


Presently, VCAL is a hands-on senior secondary qualification preparing you to enter the workforce or go onto further studies. VCE is also a senior secondary qualification, but may offer a direct pathway to university So how do you know which is right for you?

VCAL: If you’re more interested in hands-on learning with the ability to study topics that are important to you, then VCAL could be the option for you. VCAL can include components of accredited VET training and is offered at three levels, Foundation, Intermediate and Senior. VCAL will enable you to pursue further studies at TAFE, an apprenticeship or traineeship, or employment. VCAL can also offer a pathway to university by completing a TAFE qualification or tertiary preparation course first.

VCE: Alternatively, VCE is offered over a minimum of two academic years and is often used as a direct pathway to higher education at TAFE or university. VCE includes general education curriculum components and also has the option to include VET qualifications. VCE includes a scored assessment which is often used as a direct pathway to university undergraduate studies.

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VCAL courses at SWTAFE

VCAL is all about flexibility and tailoring the course to suit the student’s needs. At SWTAFE, we facilitate that with a broad range of VCAL courses covering multiple levels and supporting students of various abilities.

Our VCAL course list includes but is not limited to:

  • The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning Youth (Foundation) - (VCAL)
  • The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning Youth (Intermediate) - (VCAL)
  • The Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning Youth (Senior) - (VCAL)

Each course is offered at Warrnambool, Portland, Hamilton and Colac over 12 months and directly corresponds to the Years 10 to 12 of high school, e.g. the Foundation certificate functions as a Year 10 equivalent, etc.

We also offer our VCAL Young Parents Program at the Warrnambool campus, giving young parents up to the age of 30 the opportunity to re-engage and pursue education in a supportive environment. The Young Parents Program is offered at Foundation, Intermediate and Senior levels. This program is designed to create a child-friendly learning environment, supporting young parents to complete their qualifications. This support is provided through a holistic approach, enabling the young parents to study whilst a fully qualified Child Care Worker supervises their children. By providing in-classroom support, our unique SWTAFE program helps alleviate the challenges and dual responsibilities of parenting and learning simultaneously.

VCAL requirements

Entering into a VCAL course is easy to do, with primary entry requirements being age-based. To help you get a big picture view, we’ve made an easy to reference table:

VCAL Table

All VCAL courses require 10 successfully completed units in order for students to qualify for their final certificate.

No matter what choice you make, the future is bright and full of opportunities to suit your learning ability and goals. A Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning will help prepare you for numerous pathways, including further studies at TAFE or university, an apprenticeship or traineeships, or employment. University is not the only option available, and by taking advantage of what VCAL has to offer, you can quickly progress in a field suited to your interests. If you want to learn more about VCAL, you can get in touch with our course advisors at the Skills and Jobs Centre or register online for an information session. To explore our complete VCAL course list, take a look here for application information and links.