Helping kids Work It Out

A North Coast Not-for-Profit (NFP) is currently working wonders with students at EPPP pilot schools in the region.

Image: Kai Duncombe

CONNECT, Northern Rivers Inc is an NFP that provides a range of work placement and support services to young people from Macksville to Tweed Heads, and west to Woodenbong and Dorrigo. Since 2016, CONNECT has been delivering the department’s Regional VET Pathways program in the Northern Rivers for young people who have left school, but there was an appetite in schools to broaden the scope of the program.

“We were getting lots of enquiries from schools about the program,” says CONNECT Youth Engagement Program Manager, Sue Ryan.

The recently launched Work It Out initiative for the Educational Pathways Pilot Program (EPPP) is a response to those calls from North Coast schools.

So, what’s involved with Work It Out and who’s it for?

Work It Out, EPPP, represents a holistic approach to supporting students by systematically addressing any barriers or challenges they may face when it comes to engaging with school, or transitioning successfully to work or training. Students work with a mentor to co-design a transition plan that identifies assistance and options for moving forward. That means everything from helping students identify career options to personality testing, resume preparation, job search tips and even things like help with securing learner’s permits, bank accounts and tax file numbers. In some instances, the support can include advocacy and liaison with third parties to tackle homelessness, family challenges, mental health, or any other barrier the student may be facing.

The only eligibility criteria, apart from being aged 15-19, is that students must be enrolled in one of the nine EPPP pilot schools in the region.

“Many of the referrals we get are on suspension or are not attending school,” says Sue.

Getting some of these students back on track isn’t easy, but the Work It Out team is more than up to the task. Work It Out students get access to one of four qualified mentors, each one of whom has a background in psychology, social work or a related discipline. The mentors provide support that is tailored to the individual student, whether that’s some basic advice and mentoring or more comprehensive case management and financial support.

While it’s still early days, Sue is happy to report that Work It Out is working.

“Out of our first 50 students, 17 are currently engaged in some form of work or training,” says Sue.

One of the cohort, who has some learning difficulties, is currently doing work experience one day a week over a 12 week period with a local mechanic who is also a former TAFE NSW automotive teacher. It’s hoped that this experience will lead to an apprenticeship. Other students have re-engaged at school, or enrolled in VET courses, while some have found work through CONNECT’s contacts.

With students in some of our North Coast communities facing a unique set of challenges, it’s great to see that CONNECT is now working directly with students as part of the EPPP. We’ll be sure to catch up with the Work It Out team again to see how they’re tracking.

Learn more about the Work It Out program with our fact sheet on our student resources page.

  • Student management and wellbeing
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