Snowy Mountains students test trade skills

Students from six schools enjoyed interactive activities while exploring opportunities at the first Cooma Try a Trade and Careers Expo. Leigh Mabin reports.

Students and a teacher with a man wearing a chef uniform. Students and a teacher with a man wearing a chef uniform.
Image: Students from Monaro High School line up for a taste of what’s on offer at the TAFE NSW at the first Cooma Trade and Career Expo.

Snowy Mountains secondary students flocked to Monaro High School for a unique chance to explore and experience a trade career in agriculture, forestry, tourism, energy and manufacturing at the first ever Cooma Trade and Career Expo.

Organised by the NSW Government’s Regional Industry Education Partnerships (RIEP) program and Monaro High School, students from six of the region’s schools enjoyed interactive activities while exploring the diverse career opportunities and study pathways available in the region.

Monaro High principal James Armitage said the careers expo helped establish pathways beyond school for young people.

“Our careers adviser, Michelle Pollard, has been a driving force behind the establishment of this expo, and hopefully, it’s something that we will do annually to assist our young people in choosing pathways that are relevant to them for their future,” he said.

More than 30 leading local industry representatives, including employers and education providers, showcased the training, career development and employment opportunities on offer.

It was also a chance for the community to come together to learn, share and soak up the latest news on jobs of the future.

Students and adults with a banner. Students and adults with a banner.
Image: With the crowds gone and before packing up the last remaining banner from the first Cooma Trade and Career Expo, Monaro High students and staff posed for a photo with RIEP program organisers and the Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education and Member for Monaro Steve Whan.

Monaro MP and Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education, Steve Whan, attended the event and enjoyed an extensive student-led tour of the entire expo, speaking with industry representatives along the way.

Manager Partnerships at Training Services NSW, Nick Minto, who leads the successful delivery of the RIEP program throughout the state, said the days of an expo with information stands, pamphlets and giveaways only were long gone.

“There is a lot of research to show that it can be a game changer for students to connect with industry while they are still at school,” he said.

“One of the things we’re focussed on with the RIEP program is to create more hands-on opportunities for students at expos.”

Senior RIEP Project Officer, Paul Goodwin, said interactive activities gave students a chance to try their hand at something new.

“We’ve been able to see that today with employers from the trade areas, particularly in carpentry and construction. We’ve seen Health using the mannequins taking temperatures and pulse rates. We’ve seen TAFE NSW with hairdressing and commercial cookery,” he said.

“These experiences get the students involved and then they can have a conversation with industry representatives about the job opportunities and what they need to think about while they’re at school.”

“We’ve been really impressed with the level of engagement of the students.”

Monaro High School careers adviser Michelle Pollard said students were keen to participate in activities and asked plenty of questions.

“They’ve asked a lot of different questions that I didn’t expect, but it’s been great for them to involve themselves, and the exhibitors have done a wonderful job having interactive displays,” she said.

Throughout the day, as she moved from site to site, Michelle realised many of the industry representatives were former Monaro High students.

“It’s been lovely to catch up with people who have gone out into local businesses and local trades who are ex-Monaro High students who have come back to give back to the students to let them know about the possibilities and opportunities that are available in our local community,” she said.

Local Reece Plumbing branch managers, Ben Hearn from Jindabyne and Geoff McKenzie from Cooma, said they were on the hunt for a school-based apprentice.

“There are not enough plumbers in the world, and certainly not in this region – we don’t have enough,” Mr Hearn said.

Mr Hearn and Mr McKenzie encouraged interested students to have go at hooking up PEX plumbing system pipes. Made from polyethylene, it is a system fast taking over from copper and brass.

“They’ve all enjoyed the tools, getting the difference between the manual tool and the battery-operated tool,” Mr Hearn said.

“I think the next generation it’ll all be battery-operated. They won’t be doing the manual tools.”

The success of the inaugural Try a Trade and Career Expo, destined to become an annual fixture, also marked a significant milestone for the RIEP program. It has now achieved more than 150,000 student-employer connection opportunities throughout NSW.

The latest survey data shows 95 per cent of participating students believe the RIEP program has helped them make difficult career decisions, while 94 per cent of employers said they would participate again and recommend the program to others.

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