Trainers Michael Mercer and Kharn Grant with students studying the Civil Construction course at the TAFE's Trenayr Campus.
Trainers Michael Mercer and Kharn Grant with students studying the Civil Construction course at the TAFE's Trenayr Campus. Lesley Apps

JOB READY: Course inspires youth to build their own future

WITH the welfare of Clarence Valley youth foremost in the community's mind, a new educational course has been quietly ticking away in the background turning young people's lives around.

Established in May last year the TAFE's Work Matters Program provides high-risk and disengaged youth the opportunity to reconnect in an educational environment and learn new skills.

Courses covering civil construction and access to work and training certificates open up new avenues for students upon completion, including further training opportunities, employment and traineeships.

Since the program's introduction, 60 Clarence Valley students aged from 17 to 25 have graduated, including a number of students from South Grafton's Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre.

The program is run over four days per week for a 21-week period and was developed to close an identified gap in suitable training opportunities for at-risk youth by encouraging academic success and helping the participants to becoming financially independent and being job ready for the growing construction industry.

The program is offered at the North Coast TAFE's Trenayr campus just outside Grafton and members of the soon-to-graduate class were unanimous about the best aspects of the course.

Getting off the streets, the chance to work on the roads, drive machinery and excavators, making new friends and feeling proud of their achievements are just some of the benefits students felt the course has provided.

Student Rio Gardoll, 16, said it felt good to be treated more like an adult and had already encouraged two of his mates to do the course.

"You show other members of the community its benefits and lead by example," he said.

"I've grown in maturity and can handle situations differently now. I have more control over my anger and I'm not so easily manipulated."

The students shared the goals they intend to pursue when they complete the course at the end of the month with some planning further studies while others are seeking trade apprenticeships or to pursue specific careers in surveying, mechanics and plant operation.

Trainer Michael Mercer said the hands-on experience the students gain during the course would have them ready to enter the work force.

"The skills they learn here simulate real-life building sites," he said.

"Excavating, digging trenches, locating service markers and overhead and work safety. When they leave here they are ready for a job."

TAFE Work Matters Program head teacher Brendan Smith said it is important to have a program that can break the cycle of boredom, abuse, crime and low self-esteem some young people face.

"A lot the students in the program don't fit into the traditional schooling system, they are labelled as the trouble kid and fall under the radar," he said.

"This program allows students to learn practical skills from industry experts, such as how to use tools and equipment and workplace health and safety practices, essential skills and knowledge for job in the construction industry."

Mr Smith said the students also learn literacy and numeracy and get mentoring and support from teachers and social workers.

"We want them to know that just because they didn't do well at school, it doesn't mean they can't go on and achieve great things," he said.

"If you build trust with young people they open up."

  • An enrolment/information day will be held on Tuesday February 14 from 10am-2pm at Grafton TAFE campus for students and parents interested in the Work Matters Program. Pre-bookings are essential 1300 799 251. Lunch provided.

A mother says thanks

GRAFTON mum Amanda Harper, whose son Jared, 17, completed the program in 2016, said the program provided him with a new positive attitude toward work commitment.

"Jared is a different kid since starting the course. He's much happier and generally better behaved, more responsible and more respectful," she said.

"I am truly thankful for the course because now he is learning the value of hard work and appreciating the feeling of achievement it gives him. After the course he was motivated to find work whereas before he had no interest.

"He started work for Salmon Earthmoving in October 2016 as a casual but has so far worked full-time hours and is truly a different person from when he first started at TAFE.

"As a mum I am just really proud of how far he has come, how career driven he is and how much his work ethic has developed and is continuing to develop."

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