Ambassadors share stories to inspire remote students

The Education Pathways VET Ambassadors initiative is helping improve education and career outcomes for young people. Brendan Berecry reports.

Six people posing for a photo. Six people posing for a photo.
Image: Ambassadors Jordon Peterson, Tarnisha Winsor, Sophia DeVries and Lachlan Butler with Lightning Ridge Central School vice-captain Nicholas Newton and captain Jada Seaton.

Four Education Pathways VET Ambassadors have visited the state’s north-west to share their experiences and inspire the next generation of vocational education and training students.

The ambassador initiative is part of the Educational Pathways Program and helps improve education and career outcomes for young people by providing students with opportunities to explore their career pathway options.

Four ambassadors, Lachlan Butler, Jordon Peterson, Tanisha Winsor and Sophia DeVries, visited Lightning Ridge Central School on 23 May.

Students from Walgett Community College and Collarenebri Central School also travelled to Lightning Ridge to attend the event.

The ambassadors are former NSW Training Award recipients and spoke with students about how their participation in the Educational Pathways Program led to successful careers in their chosen fields.

They discussed barriers and challenges they had overcome to find their rewarding VET (vocational education and training) pathways.

Sophia said having the opportunity to meet and work directly with students was a pleasure and an honour.

“I’m eager to get back on the ground in remote communities to support these students,” she said.

The Educational Pathways Program complements existing career learning in schools and existing VET curriculum opportunities.

It is supported by dedicated and specialist Head Teacher Careers and SBAT (school-based apprenticeships and traineeships) Engagement Officers.

Lachlan said the Lightning Ridge visit was an incredible experience.

“Being part of a team that aimed to address the shortage of skills in our region was a privilege,” he said.

“We set out with the goal of making a difference in a community where pathways are limited, and I truly believe we succeeded!”

The ambassadors also spent time talking with members of the local community, including employers, as well as the Lightning Ridge Local Aboriginal Land Council and NSW AECG (Aboriginal Education Consultative Group).

A woman speaking with a class of students. A woman speaking with a class of students.
Image: Ambassador Tarnisha Winsor speaks with students at Lightning Ridge Central School.

Tarnisha and Sophia are both proud Aboriginal women and, before the visit, the ambassadors travelled to Collarenebri to meet with a Gamilaraay knowledge holder and learn more about Country and community.

Lightning Ridge Central School Principal Richard Finter said the ambassadors, who are all from regional areas, were great role models for the students.

“Face-to-face learning is so important for rural and remote schools like ours so having them here in person plays a big part in the success of this visit,” he said.

“The Educational Pathway Program has given us quality people who know my community and work hand-in-glove with my school to create opportunities for our students.

“VET subjects are really important in regional areas. It can open up a world of real-life experience where students can see the relevance of what skills they are learning.”

In career-focused casual conversations, students from years 7 to 12 also had the opportunity to talk to each of the ambassadors, ask questions and hear how they have achieved success through VET.

Lightning Ridge Central School Captain Jada Seaton said the ambassadors had shown her that attending university was not the only pathway to a successful career.

“They also helped take away the stigma about females working in trades,” she said.

As part of the visit, students also participated in TAFE NSW experience workshops.

The workshops were held at the Lightning Ridge TAFE campus next to the school and showcased some of the training opportunities available to students.

TAFE NSW Chief Delivery Officer Janet Schorer said the Educational Pathways Program was an important introduction to the opportunities presented by vocational education and training.

“Programs like these provide high school students with an invaluable opportunity to connect with industry-leading teachers and explore the practical, hands-on facilities at TAFE NSW,” she said.

“TAFE NSW is pleased to be able to showcase the myriad of vocational education and training pathways available to school students and the rewarding career opportunities that await them.”

The workshops spanned areas including sushi making for hospitality, using power tools in basic construction projects, confined spaces course and working at heights, health and aged care, early childcare activities and foundation skills for work.

Students rotated between the six learning areas and engaged with teachers about the course delivery and career outcomes.

Following the Lightning Ridge visit, the ambassadors also travelled to Moree Secondary College (Albert St Campus), with a stop at Mungindi Central School.

Head Teacher Careers for the Moree group of the Educational Pathways Program Rachael Shearer said the visit had resonated with students.

“Telling their stories about how they overcame barriers and found success through their unique pathways is priceless,” she said.

Educational Pathways VET Ambassadors receive comprehensive professional training to learn valuable skills in crafting their narratives and communicating with efficiency.

Ambassadors are selected from recipients of the NSW Training Awards. Regional Training Award winners will be announced this month.

A student etching a piece of wood. A student etching a piece of wood.
Image: Shelby Seaton from Collarenebri Central School participating in the TAFE NSW experience workshops.
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