Meet the team: Newcastle Central

In our ongoing ‘meet the team’ series we head to Newcastle to speak to Head Teacher Careers Amanda Hine, SBAT Engagement Officer Adam Crook, and School Administrative Officer Jenny Weiss. Find out what makes their school group unique, why they chose to take on these roles, and what they enjoy doing in their downtime.

Image: The team on the ground supporting the Newcastle Central group of schools

Behind the scenes of each Educational Pathways Program (EPP) school group sits an experienced, passionate and dynamic team who are working to ensure our students are provided with comprehensive careers education and vocational support.

There are multiple EPP school groups within the Hunter region of NSW, one of which is Newcastle Central. This group includes 5 schools in the Newcastle area: Callaghan College - Jesmond Senior Campus, Callaghan College - Wallsend Campus, Callaghan College - Waratah Campus, Francis Greenway High School, Kurri Kurri High School, Merewether High School (base school), Newcastle High School.

Supporting the Newcastle Central group of schools we have SBAT Engagement Officer Adam Crook, Head Teacher Careers Amanda Hine, and School Administrative Officer Jenny Weiss supporting the Newcastle Central group of schools.

We spoke to Adam, Amanda, and Jenny about their group of schools, why they chose to take on these roles, and what makes them feel supported in their day-to-day work. We also get a little insight into their hobbies and how they enjoy their time away from work.

What interested you about this role?

Adam: Having the chance to influence the minds of students and to follow their passions through other pathways outside of university only.

Amanda: The Head Teacher Careers role excited me as it recognises and supports the valuable work of careers advisers and the importance of Career Learning as a crucial component of a student's journey at school. I wanted to be part of a program that gives schools additional resources and opportunities for students to explore their passions, discover vocational education and training (VET) pathways and better prepare them to make informed career choices.

Jenny: As I had been working for the Department of Education casually for a few years I was ecstatic to obtain a permanent position in such a worthwhile and valued program. For my own teenage sons I see nothing but lifelong career and educational benefits from this program.

What experience are you bringing to the team?

Adam: 25+ years in industry, predominantly working with young people through apprentice training and mentoring. Also training management and VET delivery through workplace training.

Amanda: Being a Careers Adviser for many years I hope that I can be part of the careers teams and offer schools advice, ideas and connections based on their individual needs. I worked in the Big Picture Education model for three years which values students leaving to learn and looking beyond the classroom for innovative learning opportunities. My experience and efforts focus on providing students with experiences that connect them with adult mentors in their chosen fields so they come back to their classrooms more engaged and productive with a sense of purpose to their learning.

Jenny: Having had a career change 5 years ago from business finance into education, I was excited to combine my strengths, skills and studies alongside my passion for assisting and encouraging students to reach their full potential.

What do you hope to accomplish in your role?

Adam: I hope to change the perception in some of my schools that VET pathways are the 'poor cousin' and a secondary option to university. I also hope to encourage students to find their passion and help them to discover opportunities to turn those passions into a fulfilling career.

Amanda: Building strong relationships between schools and industry which I believe is key to building the capacity of our young people and preparing them for a successful transition to further learning and employment post-school.

Jenny: To support my Head Teacher Careers and group of schools with implementing efficient and streamlined processes to promote the initiatives of the program further.

Are there any opportunities or challenges that are unique to your schools?

Adam: Callaghan Jesmond has an excellent program in place and I am trying to learn the good things that they are doing and implementing so I can hopefully introduce some of these strategies in my other schools.

Amanda: In the Newcastle area we are fortunate to have a lot of industry growth in large employment sectors and also some exciting emerging industries such as the aerospace and renewable energy sectors. As a result there are heaps of local job opportunities for our young people to stay and work in the area.

Jenny: As awareness and success stories of the program are increasingly shared, our local stakeholders will see the numerous career and educational opportunities the program has to offer.

What are you most proud of since starting in your role?

Adam: I think that I have learnt a whole lot, developed some great relationships in my schools and have really enjoyed seeing some smiling faces of excited students after talking to them about their career goals.

Amanda: I am most proud when I hear the students' stories and what they have learned during the EPP initiatives they participated in. Introducing so many students to different training and career pathways, supporting them to try their interest areas and learn new skills is the most rewarding part of the role.

This year I am proud to have been part of the team producing a short film that showcases student and parent perspectives of participating in a School Based Apprenticeship or Traineeship (SBAT). The parents of the SBAT students shared their stories about their child following a VET pathway and how much of a difference it has made to their child's confidence, engagement at school and future lives. I will never forget one dad turning to his son with a tear in his eye and saying "I'm so proud of you mate".

Jenny: Now that I have established organisation and structure since starting the role, I can devote more time to assisting my Head Teacher Careers with student events. Other than that I am just proud to be part of the program in general!

What do you enjoy doing on the weekend?

Adam: Spending time with family and friends, watching live sport and taking the dogs for a long walk.

Amanda: I spend my weekends at kids sports, with friends or at home outdoors in the veggie patch, swimming in the pool and hanging with our animals on our little hobby farm. Our holidays away are mostly camping trips in the caravan and meeting up with friends at different beach spots along the coast of NSW.

Jenny: I am lucky enough to live on the coast between the lake and the beach, so I love spending my weekends with the family, usually around the water in some way. A refreshing beach swim re-energises anyone for the week ahead.

Where is your favourite place? This could be anywhere - a holiday spot, special restaurant or the patch in the backyard that gets just the right amount of sun!

Adam: I love Singapore - there is so much to see and do, it is always clean and the food is amazing.

Amanda: My favourite place is the Stockton Sand Dunes. My family and friends ride our quad bikes to get there as I am lucky to live very close. We have lots of fun adventures, bushwalking, watching the seabirds and swimming in the lagoons with the swans. It's a very special place to us, it is an absolutely beautiful natural sandscape which has a lot of significance and ancient heritage.

Jenny: I haven't been there yet but I'm positive my favourite place would be Fiji. Friendly people, warm weather, delicious food and surrounded by water!

For our binge watchers or book readers - do you have any recommendations for TV shows, movies, or books?

Adam: I love a good documentary, especially relating to space and the wonders of the universe.

Amanda: A book that I can recommend is The End of Average by Todd Rose. It was given to me by an inspiring colleague and it really resonated with me. It discusses the way we design everything (including education) for the average person, when that person doesn't really exist. It reinforces the need for a personalised approach with students and to look for their unique characteristics, encourage them to embrace individuality, pursue their passions, try new experiences, and help them to discover the educational pathway and experiences that suit them. That will lead them to success.

Jenny: Unfortunately I don't usually have time to watch TV series or movies and the only books I read at the moment are for study purposes. Maybe when I'm lying on the beach in Fiji I'll have the time!

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