More than 1000 students tried their hand at carpentry, plumbing, hairdressing and cake decorating at the Illawarra Senior College Trades Roadshow this week.
Only in its second year, the two-day event drew students from years 9-12 from 25 schools in the region.
The college's careers adviser Mark Nicholl said students were keen to get hands-on experience before deciding what trade to pursue once they left school.
"As a careers adviser I always had students who would come to me and say they wanted to be a tradie or do an apprenticeship, but they didn't know what was out there," he said. "Kids really wouldn't know about a trade unless they had a go at it. Until you actually do it, you don't know it."
Mr Nicholl said it was important students were aware university was not the only available path, especially because of the skills shortage in Australia.
"Trades can really, really give people an opportunity to get ahead in life. There's a lot of kids out there who aren't academically inclined, and we have a massive trade shortage in this country, so all those reasons speak for themselves."
Kanahooka High's Jayden Dudek, 15, was looking forward to trying out some practical plumbing skills. He plans to learn the trade once he finishes year 12 because he believes there will always be a need for plumbers.
"I do a lot of that work at school and it's really interesting, practical stuff like woodwork and metal work," he said.
Bill Khumkhrong, also 15, said the roadshow was a chance to learn more about the different trades he was thinking about taking on.