Retaining students till age 17

Ensuring students complete Year 10 and continue their education to the age of 17 can be a challenge, one that Erina High School head teacher Brian Jackson faces every day.

"There are students out there who aren't an easy fix at school," he said. "These are the ones who often truant and misbehave, and are usually frustrated in the high school environment.

"They are likely to drop out of school and face unemployment.

"Our challenge was to meet the educational and social needs of these at-risk students."

In 2011, as a result of a collaborative partnership between Erina High School, Youth Connection and local employers, Tradestart was created.

Pathways to employment

Tradestart was designed to give students:

  • an opportunity to work towards a qualification
  • accredited training
  • participation in employment generating activities
  • a pathway to further education, training or employment.

Students will also study preliminary HSC units with a focus on work skills.

"It's a vocational pathway to further study and employment based on the concept of work, learn and earn," Mr Jackson said.

Tradestart became an annex of Erina High School, and last year 42 students from neighbouring schools enrolled, with 32 receiving a statement of attainment towards their preliminary certificate.

The majority have moved into full-time work or further education and training.

This year, 43 students were enrolled from 11 schools in the region. They will study 12 units, with an emphasis on a pathway to employment.

In partnership with Youth Connections, students will rotate through five weeks of eight different 'trade taster sessions', complete work placement and access youth workers and wellbeing programs while studying at the Green Central site, Kariong.

Taking responsibility

"It's important to empower the students so they can take responsibility for their future," Mr Jackson said.

"Tradestart is an adult learning environment with teachers acting as facilitators.

"The youth worker and tradespeople support and mentor the students."

"An essential component of Tradestart is to improve the confidence and wellbeing of students who were previously at risk," Mr Jackson said.

"The employment oriented courses have an emphasis on success.

"For many of these at-risk students, this is the best opportunity they will have at re-engaging with education through a flexible delivery of courses coupled with hands on trade experience that will lead to employment."

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