Meet David Youman - Careers Immersion Team member

Interview with David Youman, Head Teacher - Careers in the Grafton Cluster and someone with a passion for building confidence in our young people as they approach the workforce.

05 June 2020
Image: David at work as Head Teacher - Careers, Grafton Cluster

David Youman is currently the Head Teacher, Secondary Studies working across the Grafton Cluster. The schools David supports include Grafton High School, Maclean High School, South Grafton High School and Woolgoolga High School.

David spent seven years as a teacher at South Grafton High School after which he was appointed Head Teacher, a role he has served in for the past 15 years.

David’s early career with 10 years as a mechanical fitter/machinist gave him the relevant insight needed to promote and deliver Vocational Education and Training (VET) inside South Grafton High School.

Also, David has forged close links with local industry partners as part of his mission to strengthen the connections between schools, training and employment opportunities for students.

We asked David to tell us a bit more about his role, his focus areas within the Educational Pathways Pilot Program, (EPPP), and his vision of the future for students in his cluster.

Q: The Educational Pathways Pilot Program (EPPP) focuses on improving higher education and career outcomes for young people. Often the high school to university model is not the right fit for students and you yourself experienced this during your schooling years. Tell us about that and how you plan to use your personal experience to help students explore other options such as school-based apprenticeships and traineeships (SBAT)?

A: Throughout my high school years I had an interest in practical skills-based subjects; including woodwork, metalwork, technical drawing and the arts. This interest and development of skills lead me to applying for apprenticeships towards the end of Year 10. I was the first in my family to endeavour into the trades. After applying for many advertised positions and gaining access to many interviews I was unsuccessful in my pursuit of an apprenticeship. Plan B was to return to school and undertake senior studies whilst still applying for apprenticeships. Mid way through Year 11 I successfully gained an apprenticeship and left school to follow a trade pathway. During my 4-year apprenticeship I studied at TAFE and developed technical skills and knowledge through ‘on-the-job’ experiences.

Several years into my trade as a qualified tradesman, the economy took a downturn and I lost my job. Taking this opportunity, I travelled interstate and overseas utilising my trade skills and developed employability skills to gain employment in varying occupations. Returning to Australia I applied for University using my Certificate III and mature age status to gain university acceptance and to undertake the Secondary Education (teaching) Design & Technology Degree. Undertaking the fulltime 4-year degree, I supported myself by working within my trade. Completing the degree, I was offered a teaching position where I would continue to expose students and their families to ‘real world’ pathways and industry-standard skills.

Through my position as a VET teacher and Head teacher I developed local industry networks, forming a direct connection between industry and the school. During this time many young students had the opportunity to present themselves to future employers and thus, gain employment and apprenticeships.

Recently my son followed a similar pathway; firstly, gaining a SBAT and undertaking the process throughout his preliminary year before moving to a full-time apprenticeship.

My pathway and career stories are frequently used in my teaching to motivate and inform students and parents whilst giving a positive aspect of a planned non-HSC pathway.

Q: You are the Head Teacher for the Grafton Cluster of schools. What unique challenges do these schools face?

A: The challenges faced by the schools of the Clarence Coffs area are common to most rural schools; limited local job opportunities, high generational & youth unemployment and geographical distancing for training options including TAFEs and other RTOs. Majority of students moving on to tertiary education have to move away from the family network.

Q: What initial plans under the EPPP do you have to address these challenges?

A: Developing and forming a team (Career Immersion Team) to focus on increasing SBATs, increase career pathway information to students and parents/carers and support disengaged and disadvantaged students to make informed career choices. This team initially identified local industry areas of focus including recognized skill gaps.

Developing processes for students to actively engage in as local industry representatives explain their pathways, identifying career pivots or changes they took. This process has taken a different direction due to unpredictable COVID-19 restrictions and conditions, with some innovative approaches to achieve the goal. My plan is to increase the students’ exposure to the work environment through structured work experience and bringing the industry to the schools to gain authentic current experience and knowledge.

I have established within each school a group of students interested in an apprenticeship or traineeship; these students will be developing their employability skills, emotional intelligence and plan along the way to choose appropriate subjects for the future.

Q: As a VET Teacher you would have seen the transformation of many young students whose career path took a positive turn by taking up VET. Do you have any advice for students who are considering VET?

A: Undertaking a VET course while at school has many advantages including developing work-ready skills and knowledge through competency-based learning and assessment. Students mature quickly and develop numeracy and literacy skills in a real world setting that they can put into practice and then witness the value of their learning in a practical experience. Developing these essential skills and working towards a qualification allows students to start their career pathways at school and be exposed to potential employers through work placement.

Q: Finally, what excites you most about your role in the Careers Immersion Team?

A: Developing a positive network of like-minded people from local industries, RTOs, TAFE, support organisations, schools and their service to give the best opportunities for our young people to have confidence in taking the next step in their career pathway. Having parents and school staff see the value in different educational pathways to support positive student choices and futures.

  • Student engagement and participation
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