Putting some Spark back into Yass

Putting some Spark back into Yass

What can you do when faced with a high rate of youth disengagement and unemployment coupled with lack of training opportunities in a regional context? Get creative is what!

Since March 2017, the SRBEC’s Regional VET Pathways program has been working collaboratively with TAFE NSW, Zac’s Place community centre, Yass Community Garden and Ginninderry, which is a construction company based in the ACT, to deliver an innovative approach to training and employment opportunities to the people of the Yass Valley.

Known as Spark, this course offers participants the opportunity to complete a nationally recognised pre-apprenticeship qualification in Construction in a supportive adult learning environment while developing hands on skills in areas such as formwork, concreting, carpentry, brickwork and landscaping to name only a few. An integral part of Spark is to value add to the community of Yass through the completion of these skill development projects on site at Yass Community Garden and Zac’s Place Community Centre. This has included the laying of a new driveway and concrete paths for improved wheelchair access, landscaping and paving of communal areas, building of new garden beds and brick compost bays and the construction of roofing over an existing veranda to offer additional undercover options.

As part of Spark, each participant is provided with all necessary Personal Protective Equipment and additional training to achieve their NSW WHS White Card and Asbestos Awareness certification to ensure an easy transition into employment at the completion of the course. To assist with this transition the Spark team host an industry BBQ for potential employers to come out to the site and meet the participants. This provides employers with the opportunity to view the participant’s handy work and have informal discussions to identify potential apprentices and employees.

We are currently in the process of delivering the second instalment of the Spark program and have high hopes that this year’s group will be as successful as last year which saw many of the participants move into stable employment as a direct result of Spark. This success was recently acknowledged by TAFE NSW through the presentation of an award to the SRBEC, Ginninderry, Zac’s Place and Yass Community Gardens as the 2017 Industry/Community Partner of the year.

Due to the outcomes experienced by the participants and feedback from their subsequent employers and the community, the Spark program looks set to be a stable ongoing option for the Yass Valley for many years to come.