Meet the team supporting the Illawarra South group of schools

In this edition, we turn the spotlight to the team who hail from the idyllic beaches of the NSW south coast — Illawarra South. We chatted with Tracy Hicks (Head Teacher Careers), Tracy King (SBAT Engagement Officer), and Wendy Arrighi (School Administrative Officer).

Our teams help to uphold the program's objectives of improving higher education and career outcomes for young people.

The Illawarra South group of schools includes five schools: Albion Park High School, Kiama High School, Lake Illawarra High School, Oak Flats High School, and Warilla High School.

Meet the committed team driving the program’s objectives in these schools - Wendy Arrighi (School Administrative Officer), Tracy King (SBAT Engagement Officer), and Tracy Hicks (Head Teacher Careers).

What experience do you bring to the team?

Tracy H: I have been working in the careers space for 20 years, both in Broken Hill and the Illawarra. The cumulative experience working in remote and regional schools has helped me to be a resilient and creative educator. When working as part of any team I bring positivity, energy and enthusiasm.

Tracy K: Prior to this role I worked in the VET work placement sector for 3 years, working with Illawarra High Schools. In that role we helped students receive hands-on industry experience to complement their classroom learning and meet the NESA requirements of their certificate. Prior to that, I worked as an out-of-home-care caseworker for 5 years, working with children and young people and their families and foster carers.

Wendy: Many years of administrative and communication skills and a ‘can do’ attitude with a willingness to learn new things.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Tracy H: I have really enjoyed working and connecting with the Head Teachers in the Illawarra, as well as the Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands. It is inspiring learning from these incredible women, and being in a team where we value each other's strengths, and are able to support each other in areas that we help with. I also really enjoy being part of a larger team working to provide genuine opportunities for students. I have also enjoyed working with Wendy, my EPP School Administrative Officer, and learning together over the past 12 months.

Tracy K: I love SBATs. I know they're not for every student, but for the right students, they're an amazing opportunity to start their career without missing out on their HSC. I love helping young people realise what they can achieve with some knowledge and support. I'm a talker and love people, and with this role I get to talk to students, employers, parents, careers advisers and teachers every day. I love the passion and support that is wrapped around a student, everyone is there to do what they can to help each student succeed.

Wendy: Providing support in the best way possible to assist young people to achieve long term goals.

Are there any opportunities or challenges that are unique to the schools and communities you are working in?

Tracy H: Illawarra South has five schools within a 20km radius of each other. There are TAFE campuses, RTOs, and a great university - all of which can be accessed within 30mins. This is a unique opportunity for the schools, and in particular, the students, as there are so many pathways and opportunities available and accessible to them.

Tracy K: There are so many opportunities to share information about SBATs. So many employers and parents don't know about SBATs. They have been around for a long time but now with the EPP, they're been promoted a lot more in and outside the schools. There are definitely challenges in finding employers in certain industries wanting to take on SBATs. Carpentry and Animal Studies have been my biggest challenges so far this year.

What is your proudest achievement in the role so far?

Tracy H: I am proud of what our Illawarra team has achieved by developing a strategic plan through the Careers Immersion Team. I am proud of the work we have been able to achieve because of the support we have from our careers advisers and schools, and I am proud of the positive impact this is having on the students.

Tracy K: I'm proud every time a work experience turns into an offer of an SBAT. I feel invested in the student and the employer, and hope that I have prepared both of them enough to have realistic expectations and a successful working relationship. I feel the Illawarra EPP team works really well together and it's lovely to be part of that team.

Wendy: Mentoring new SAO's. Positive connections with local schools, fellow EPP team members across the state and connecting with the wider community.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Tracy H: I enjoy going to the beach, drawing and watching AFL!

Tracy K: I'm a crazy dog lady. I am a breeder of Australian Labradoodles and life outside of work revolves around them. Looking after our adult dogs and raising healthy, well-socialised, well-balanced puppies.

Wendy: Family, friends, music, reading, swimming the list is endless.

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!

Tracy H: A favourite place is the Living Desert Sculptures, located outside Broken Hill along Nine Mile Road. When we lived in Broken Hill we would go up to the sculptures with family and friends to watch the sun set... stunning!

Tracy K: Home is my favourite place to be.

Wendy: Burrill Lake - camping and enjoying life.

For our binge watchers, or book readers... any recommendations of TV shows, movies or books?

Tracy H: I love a good podcast! The Glitch, The Lady Vanishes and Real Dictators are a good listen.

Tracy K: Yellowstone and the spin offs, 1883 and 1923 when watching with hubby, and Vanderpump Rules and the Real Housewives series are my go-to when I have the TV to myself.

Wendy: Outlander addicted!

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