Regional conferences highlight the EPP's impact on students

The first of the EPP regional conferences, held in Western Sydney and Wollongong, have highlighted the profound impact of the program on the educational landscape. Through dynamic discussions and shared insights, these events have helped bridge the gap between students, industry and the EPP community.

Image: Shannon Mudiman, Suzie Matthews and Ellen Lintjens with students at the Wollongong conference

Education professionals, employers, parents, and students have come together in the Educational Pathways Program’s first two regional conferences. 16 August 2023 saw the school groups in the Western Sydney - Blacktown come together, with the Illawarra and Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands regions converging in Wollongong on 1 September.

Under the theme Forward.Together the conferences serve as a platform for local education professionals engaged in the EPP, alongside employers, students, and parents, to exchange insights, inspire collaboration, and strengthen partnerships across participating EPP schools.

The conferences aimed to further enhance the EPP's mission of providing students with diverse educational pathways. By bringing together key stakeholders, the events fostered an environment of shared learning and collaboration.

At both conferences, co-MC'd by local students, the standout moments were the enlightening panel discussions, which included representatives from diverse backgrounds such as employers, parents, principals, and students. Additionally, the round table discussions made significant contributions, offering a platform for deeper engagement and insights from all participants. Collectively, these discussions played a pivotal role in the conferences, shedding light on the real-world impacts of vocational education and training through the EPP.

Employers engaged with the program took the opportunity during the panel to share their experiences with the EPP and the relationships they've cultivated with program students. In particular, the engagement of employers and the program was a key focus.

“It can’t just be up to the schools, it needs industry as well, we need people in the industry to understand what the (SBAT) program does so we are pairing the right student with the right industry,” explained Beau Hampton from Icon Projects, one of the Illawarra panel members and EPP employers.

They celebrated the practical skills and knowledge these students have gained, the role of EPP in bridging the education-to-employment gap, and how VET is arming students for success in their chosen careers.

Parents who took part in the panels offered unique perspectives on the positive transformations they observed in their children through their participation in the EPP. They spoke of the enthusiasm for learning, increased self-assurance, and a newfound sense of purpose instilled in their children through the program. Cynthia Barwick, proud mum of Eliana Willie, shared, 'To see her confidence grow, it impacted not just her schooling and her focus, but also us as a family. We have all changed, and for the better’. This parental viewpoint highlighted the program's impact, extending beyond the classroom and into the lives of students and their families.

Student representatives on the panels discussed their personal journeys through the EPP, sharing how through the program, they have obtained practical skills, mentorships, and a clear path towards their desired careers. Their experiences demonstrated the impact VET opportunities can make, highlighting how doors open when students are empowered to pursue their passions.

Mother and daughter sitting next to each other, the daughter holding a microphone Mother and daughter sitting next to each other, the daughter holding a microphone
Image: Eliana, Year 12 Chifley College Bidwill Campus student with her mother Cynthia at the Rooty Hill conference

These conferences emphasised the EPP's commitment to collaboration, innovation, and empowerment. By uniting educational professionals, employers, parents, and students, these events amplified the significance of collective efforts in shaping the future of learning and career development.

The momentum continues as the EPP gears up for its next regional conference on the North Coast in October. This upcoming event promises to bring together educational leaders, stakeholders, and communities from the region to continue discussions on shaping the educational landscape for the better.

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