Connecting careers dots for our students in the Northern Rivers

The recent Northern Rivers Careers Expo helps students understand the hidden value of their part-time jobs.

Image: Expo organisers, exhibitors and student attendees

The Northern Rivers Careers Expo is an annual event sponsored by TAFE NSW and ‘Rekindling the Spirit’. A unique part of the expo is “Try a Trade”, sponsored by Connect Northern Rivers and Torrens University Australia.

The aim of the expo is to help students plan their future education and explore career options. This year, the event was held at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre and saw students across the Northern Rivers region meet with employers, training organisations and universities. Many also stopped by the EPPP stand, staffed by Deborah Page-Thomas, the Head Teacher Careers for the Ballina Cluster, and Donna Kearns, School Based Apprenticeship and Traineeship Officer.

“We spoke to more than 100 students on the day, all about the VET subjects they can study at school, how to explore career options, and what career pathways they may be suited to,” says Deborah.

On that last point, Deborah and Donna made good use of the Careers bullseyes from MyFuture displayed at the EPPP stand. Students could see, at a glance, what sort of jobs might be suit their subject interests, and the level of training required to get there.

“The career bullseyes open up a broad range of jobs straight away, including ones they might not have even considered,” says Deborah.

The students also took home EPPP goodie bags full of information about various school-based training opportunities. The idea is that students share the information with their parents and carers and get that ‘careers conversation’ started at home, something Deborah is confident will happen.

“We were very impressed by the students who came through the stand,” says Deborah.

“Careers Expos can be a bit of a whirl-wind tour, with students gathering brochures and merchandise but not showing confidence to engage in meaningful conversations”.

Many of the students were also surprised to learn that their current part-time jobs could potentially help them on their way to an SBAT. At the very least, thanks to Deborah and Donna, they came to see their jobs at KFC and Woolies in a different light.

“A lot of young people are quite dismissive of their casual jobs, saying things like ‘I just work at KFC,’ but we encouraged them to think differently,” says Deborah.

Deborah and Donna helped students understand that many of the skills they were learning in their part-time jobs - whether it be teamwork, communication, problem solving or time management - are readily transferable and can be applied to a host of different jobs. Not only that, these skills are as valuable as the job-specific skills that vocational training equips students with.

“It might not sound spellbinding, but it’s really exciting when you can engage teenagers in a conversation about building an inspiring plan for their future, and help them understand how the experiences they're currently engaged in can potentially contribute to their HSCs in the form of an SBAT.”

“While we can’t say for sure, we’re pretty confident that the feeling was mutual, and that a bunch of students left the EPPP stand pretty excited by what they’d learned.”

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