Trades program

A UNIQUE year 10 western suburbs program tackling Australia’s skill shortage will face extinction in 2007 unless $80,000 is raised to help it survive.
The Trades Orientation Program (TOP), supported by Williamstown High School and Victoria University, has run for eight years and faced a similar threat in 2004 and 2005.
Just weeks ago VU pulled its funding for next year, instead investing $130,000 in a VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) program with wider reach.
TOP is limited to 12 participants at a time. It targets 15 to 17-year-olds typically disillusioned by school, and runs for 12-months.
The only fee students pay is $340 to enrol in year 10 at Williamstown High. They then receive 640 hours of trade modules provided by VU free.
However, next year VU can no longer deliver its free trade modules, and will charge the regular fee for service rate of $120 an hour, or $80,000 in total.
Stephen Gately, manager of TOP, said it was important he did not blame anyone for the funding cut.
“I know that they are under pressure and at times have to make hard decisions,” Mr Gately said.
“All I want is for people in Victoria and specifically the western suburbs to be aware that this successful program will not run in 2007 unless we can find replacement funding.”
However, Dr Anne Jones, VU pro vice-chancellor, said the funding, far from being withdrawn, was being used to replace the unaccredited TOP program it had funded since 1999.
“VU has generously offered to fund a pilot Foundation VCAL program to be delivered in partnership with Williamstown Secondary College in 2007,” she said.
“We are funding this program on the understanding that it will be available to students from other secondary schools in the region.”
Dr Jones said the new accredited course means that students would gain a Foundation VCAL certificate and would also achieve some national VET (Vocational Education and Training) units to give them credit into other TAFE courses.
The independent TOP is not associated with VET or VCAL but aims to re-engage those who are thinking about or have dropped out of school and give them a taste of various trades, while still qualifying for Year 10.
One third of the course is traditional but tailored eduction in numeracy, literacy, work education and personal development.
The other two-thirds is 640 hours of hands-on, serious trade modules from 11 different trades.
Mr Gately said 80 per cent of students moved into apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeships, while the remainder returned to traditional school or gain employment.
One participant of the TOP is Altona resident Mitch Rafferty, who wants to get a cabinet-making apprenticeship after the course.
He believes the trade program changed his life, and thinks it’s “terrible” that others like him may miss out if it can’t continue.
The 16-year-old dropped out of MacKillop Catholic Regional College in year 9.
Mitch has already completed two out of three weeks’ work experience at Cabinet Masters in Hoppers Crossing, and has almost completed the course.
“When I was at school, I was bored, but as soon as I came to this course I’ve just seen a huge change and I like it now,” Mitch said.
“I didn’t know at the start of the course what I wanted to do, I thought maybe sign writing, but now I want to do this.”
And Mitch’s sentiments are echoed by Cabinet Masters boss, co-owner Charlie Adornetto, who says the program is a great opportunity for youngsters who want to gain an edge. Mitch is the third work experience student to go through the small business, and the first two were hired as apprentices.
TOP began in 1999 as a partnership between VU TAFE division and Williamstown High School.
For more information on Trades Orientation Program call Stephen Gately on 9919 8481.

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