Helping young people get back in the game

The Back in the Game initiative continues to support young people who are disengaged or disconnected from their schooling. We take a closer look at what the initiative is providing our Educational Pathways Program schools in 2023.

The Back in the Game (BIG) initiative provides specialist support and mentoring for students aged 15-19 who are not engaging well with their education, or just looking for an alternative to secondary schooling as a pathway to their future. The initiative helps these young people overcome barriers to their education, employment or training readiness, then assists them to transition to vocational training, find employment, or re-engage with their education.

The initiative includes case management, career and transition planning, mentoring, and a wealth of practical support tailored to meet the needs of each student. The BIG program is holistic and looks beyond the resume and course guides to other things that might be needed to make a transition to training or employment successful. This could include referrals to mental health or housing support, and assistance with purchasing necessary items like work uniforms or training materials.

“This is such an important program in that it helps young people who could easily fall through the gaps find their way into a fulfilling and productive career pathway,” says Rhiannon Beck, the initiative lead for Back in the Game.

During May to December 2022, 268 students were referred to the Back in the Game program. To understand the breadth of the program and the wide variety of support it offers the students, here is a snapshot of just some of the assistance these students received:

  • 138 resumes
  • 48 Unique Student Identifiers
  • 12 Bank Accounts
  • 46 Tax File Numbers
  • 11 My Gov Accounts
  • 19 Medicare Cards
  • 14 Birth Certificates
  • 10 referrals to mental health services

What may seem like something small, makes a big difference to the future of these students. Following their enrolment in the BIG program, there were over 150 different types of engagements commenced; including 47 enrolments into VET/training courses, 35 commencements of part-time jobs, 34 re-engagements with school, 24 work experience placements, and 11 commencements into full-time jobs.

Toby from the Tweed Valley in Northern NSW is one of these students. He was referred to the BIG program in July 2022, a time when he was very disconnected from school and needed an opportunity to get back on track. Toby's family had been affected by the floods and were evicted from their home, having to move further away from school and work. His attendance dropped to 65%, and he had several suspensions from school. He had also been seeing the school counsellor for aggression.

When Toby was referred to the Back in the Game program, he commenced receiving support from his local BIG provider, Connect Northern Rivers. Toby had limited work experience, but before he could participate in any work experience opportunities he needed to complete the school work he had missed (N award) and improve his behaviour

During this time Connect Northern Rivers maintained weekly mentoring with Toby, and helped him to secure his identification card, write his resume and organise white card training.

Following a successful interview process, Toby secured work experience at Distinction Truck Bodies, Murwillumbah. Connect Northern Rivers helped Toby purchase work clothes and PPE.

In November 2022 Toby completed Year 10, and after successfully completing his work experience, was offered a 3-month probationary contract on a full-time basis with the same employer. His employer advises that this year, dependent on Toby successfully completing his 3-month probation, he will be offered an apprenticeship.

Connect Northern Rivers is assisting the employer to identify an apprenticeship centre and training.

“Toby’s story is a beautiful example of the amazing work that the BIG service providers do everyday,” says Rhiannon.

“Young people like Toby, who find school challenging for a variety of reasons, can make excellent use of the support available to find a pathway that is rewarding, engaging, and transitions them into the world of adulthood,” she adds.

The BIG team, and local providers, look forward to strengthening relationships with EPP schools into the future to facilitate better outcomes for young people.

To refer a young person that may need additional support to transition to further education, training and/or employment, please contact your local provider (details in the table below) to make a referral.

Back in the Game providers by region

Region Local provider/delivery partners Contact details

Illawarra and surrounds

Enterprise plus

Program Manager: Anja Livingston

Contact Email:

Contact Phone: 02 6297 3121

Website: Link

Central Coast, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter Valley


Program Manager: Alex Moore

Contact Email:

Contact Phone: 02 4906 6700

Website: Link

New England and North West

Careers Network

Program Manager: Debbie Taekata

Contact Email:

Contact Phone: 02 6763 4800

Website: Link

North Coast

Connect Northern Rivers

Program Manager: Margaret Hughes

Contact Email:

Contact Phone: 1300 183 352

Website: Link

Western and South West Sydney


Program Manager: Sue Watson

Contact Email:

Contact Phone: 0402 965 622

Website: Link

  • News
Return to top of page Back to top