Category Archives: Workplace Learning


VET and SWL – Hands-on training for our youth that helps keep our talented young people local. 

VET (Vocational Education and Training), provides accredited training in a range of industries including trades, retail, health, hospitality and services.  Schools in our region run a VET component to their curriculum which enables students to gain accredited training in an area of their interest while still at school.  This training is handson and industry specific.  The skills developed in a VET course can assist young people to find employment when they have completed their schooling.   

As the training is primarily hands-on, VET provides students with an alternative way of learning.  This type of learning is suited to many students and is why there is such success in this model, particularly for students who prefer learning in a practical environment. While there is a written component to VET studies, there is a strong emphasis on hands-on learning.  Students who are unsure of their future career can undergo a VET course in an area of interest with the hope that it will assist them to determine a pathway forward for the rest of their schooling.  

VET courses enable students to attain a certificate II or III in a particular field.  If a student goes on to gain an apprenticeship in the area they studied in VET, their VET certificate will, in most cases, contribute as credit towards some units in the apprenticeship training and therefore reduce the length of the apprenticeship.  

Part of the requirement for many of the VET courses is a Structured Workplace Learning, (SWL), placement to complement the course work.  This enables students to gain experience and develop skills in an actual workplace. Businesses and organisations host a young person within their workforce for a specified time. This can be either one day a week for up to 20 weeks or every day for a one-week block. This valuable experience enhances the students learning and provides them with unique reallife experience in the workforce.  In turn, the employer can use the process to seek prospective new apprentices or trainees and have them work in their team to assess if they are a good fit for their business.  In hosting a student, employers support skill development in their industry and assist a young person with their studies.  SWL is a valuable component of the VET training process and is a fantastic way for businesses to keep talented young people local. 



Pathways to Employment

Navigating a pathway from school into employment can take many turns. This was very much the case for Horsham College student, Grace Christian.

Grace studied Cert II VET (Vocational Education and Training) Hairdressing at Federation University one day per week. She also undertook one day per week of on-the-job structured workplace learning (SWL) in a salon. After wondering if hairdressing was the career path she truly wanted, she tried another work placement in Community Services. At the end of year 11 Grace decided hairdressing was what she really wanted and enrolled in Certificate II Salon Assistant for  her second year VET course.

Many young people do not have a set career path and change their mind many times before they eventually settle into a career. Some students aspire to complete year 12 and head to Uni to further study, some take a GAP year and work to save money or travel and some participate in a VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) course during their VCE years and do on the job training and gain industry experience to find their passion. This can then lead to apprenticeships, traineeships or employment.

In year 12 Grace commenced a work placement at Sirs and Hers Hair studio, which has now had a revamp and name change to George and Co. After only two weeks into her placement, an apprenticeship became available and Grace threw her hat in the ring. “I wanted to finish year 12 but I was really enjoying my time in the salon and my dad was really supportive of me leaving school for an apprenticeship”.

Owner of George and Co, Michelle Shanks, offered Grace a two-week full-time trial to ensure leaving school was the right decisions. “I didn’t want to stop Grace from completing year 12, I wanted her to make sure this was what she truly wanted”. “Grace is so mature for her age and she reminds me of myself. She has great work ethic and fits in with the team here at George and Co”. Grace was offered the position and is now employed full time as a first-year apprentice.

Reception duties, smiling and greeting the clients that come into the salon, learning the product range, washing hair, general cleaning duties and helping assist other stylists apply colour are all tasks Grace is learning while on the job. “I have a passion for creative colour, I would like to specialise in colour when I qualify. I really enjoy working with the staff here. They are so friendly and willing to share their knowledge with me”.

Grace will be required to attended trade school as part of her apprenticeship. There is still some discussion as to where that will be but Geelong is looking promising. When asked if there were any things she found challenging, Grace replied, “Being independent and doing it on my own. I’ve never had to stay away from home before, but it will be a great learning curve for me”.

What a great outcome for Grace, exploring opportunities offered through her VCAL Program at Horsham College to help shape a positive career path locally.

For any further information on VET courses offered or Structured Workplace Learning opportunities, contact Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN on 53810122

Hope for Success

Warracknabeal year 11 student, Hope Dempsey is celebrating her success which all began with a mock interview at school. During the interview she made a positive first impression on interviewer, Bernie O’Connor.

Woodbine’s CEO Bernie O’Connor commented, “Hope presented well and on time and was clearly taking the interview as a genuine opportunity to learn more of the job seeking process. Towards the end of the interview, my fellow panel member, John Aitken, asked a completely unscripted question of Hope. He asked what three positive learning experiences she could say about her casual work at McDonalds. Immediately, Hope replied along these lines; to dress neatly in uniform to present a positive image, work diligently and never serve food I wouldn’t be prepared to eat myself- There was the next School Based Apprentice.

Woodbine provides a comprehensive range of services and day activities including supported employment, shared supported accommodation, outreach and respite, and recreation and  leisure. The range of day activities includes the popular adventure and discovery program, information technology, communication, commercial catering, plant nursery, craft shop, arts, music, retail clothing shop, opportunity shop and meals on wheels, to nominate a few. All Woodbine services are managed with a genuine philosophy of maximising inclusion and seeking to contribute to the local community.

Bernie explained, “The School Based Apprenticeship is one half of Woodbine’s trainee program. The program involves the nomination by a secondary college of a finishing year 12 student who does not plan to continue on to tertiary studies. This trainee will be supported in real full-time employment for two years whilst they are fully assisted to obtain Certificate IV in Disability. At the same time, comes the nomination of a finishing year 10 student to take up the School Based Apprenticeship. “

School Based Apprenticeships allow young Australians to get a head start with their careers by beginning an apprenticeship while still working towards their senior secondary school certificate. School-based Apprenticeships are a great career option, allowing young Australians to commence training for a vocational qualification and earn a wage while still at school.

Hope said “I love it here. I have two days of on-the-job training and a half a day of working, so it’s 19 hours all-up in a week.” Hope is studying for her Vocational Certificate of Applied Learning at school. “I struggle with classrooms—I always have, but being out in the workplace, I’m learning more than I was at school. It’s a lot more hands-on.” she said.

“I started here in October of 2015 and was thrown in the deep end.” she said. “No two days are the same.” Hope assists clients with daytime activities. “We go out into the community, we go out to Pharmacino and have a coffee and a scone or we’ll go for a walk up the street and get the newspaper. I had my first day in the kitchen last week and today was my first day in music and it was really good.” she said.

Hope has been on steep learning curve. “One of the things I’ve been learning is patience. Some of the clients are a bit slower at completing tasks than others, so you’ve got to be really patient with them and give them time.” she said. Life just keeps getting better for Hope. “A couple of weeks ago I was doing lunchmaking and Bernie, the CEO, called me out and offered me more work!”

Asked if he’d recommend School Based Apprenticeships to other businesses and organisations, Bernie replied, “This program seeks to support a healthy balance of experience and youth at Woodbine. Only a few years ago, there was just one staff member under the age of 30 years. With this measure and its flow-on message, there are now 35 people in the younger age grouping. If you are interested in maintaining a line of youth to match experience and see it as a long term plan, then a is a very workable and extremely rewarding solution. It is not necessarily a solution to address immediate skill deficiencies in your business. For Woodbine, it is a strategy to balance the workforce in a way that is a real support to the community and individual young people whilst enhancing the perception of people with a disability.”

Life’s Good

Eddie Nsanzimana and Nexus

Life’s motoring along pretty fast for 19 year old Eddie Nsanzimana from Rwanda.

He spent his childhood in a refugee camp in Tanzania after being forced to flee from the Rwandan genocide in the mid 90’s, before moving to Australia in 2006 with his mother and siblings. Eddie’s now studying Certificate IV in Community Services and has gained a full-time traineeship at Nexus Youth Centre in Horsham.

First living in Adelaide, Eddie remarked “It was all a bit new for us, just a little boy from a refugee camp, living in the big city”. Eventually the family moved to Horsham. “I never wanted to come to Horsham. I hated the idea of moving here. I asked what do teenagers do here?” he said. “I’ve been here for the last four years. Now I love this place. There’s no place I’d rather be than Horsham.”

Eddie has certainly fallen on his feet of late. “It was 18 months ago that I came across Nexus at the Careers Expo. I didn’t have a Structured Workplace Learning placement and my teacher encouraged me to try Community Services at Nexus. So I spoke to Alois and he said he’d love to take me on board, so I’ve worked here as part of my schooling every Tuesday from mid 2014 to the end of 2015.”

During that time Eddie assisted with organising events. “They let me lead a project- a camp at Lake Mungo in the outback for Young G and Freeza kids” he said. “The main idea of the camp was to get the multicultural Young G kids together with Australian kids to spend a whole week together and learn about each other and their cultures” he said. “Lake Mungo was crazy-no phone, no showers, no nothing for two days. I was surprised. The kids didn’t care about phones though and we just sat around the campfire talking and playing games. There was a bit of storytelling and it was amazing. We discovered a lot of talents in each other.”

Eddie’s now moved into a full-time traineeship at Nexus and is studying Certificate IV in Community Services after finishing Year 12 last year. “What I like about Nexus is the culture here-it’s really chilled.” he said. His favourite part of the job is the satisfaction he receives when an event comes together after lots of planning and organising. “It feels good seeing the reaction on the kids’ faces. Seeing them happy keeps me going” he said.

Eddie’s manager, Alois Kneibess had only good things to say about him. “Eddie’s been fantastic. He connects really well with the young people. I think it’s really good having a young person, on the staff in a training capacity. Work placements are a great opportunity to invest in a young person’s life and they bring a fresh dynamic to your organisation. As a youth centre, it’s good to be involved with young people that are starting to transition from education to employment. It’s exciting to have someone like Eddie on board- he’s dynamic and enthusiastic.”

“Eddie’s done a lot of work coordinating our Youth Week activities this week, working with different musicians, artists, logistics, catering, accommodation and transport,”Alois said.

Asked for his advice for other students thinking of doing a work placement, Eddie replied, “It’s all about having a passion and sticking your neck out. Sometimes you can fail but just keep trying. When you stick at it and keep going. It may lead to traineeships and apprenticeships. Just keep going and don’t give up.”

Some facts about Structured Workplace Learning

  • The minimum payment for students completing structured workplace learning is just $5 per day.
  • Students completing work placement are covered by Work Cover
  • A Working With Children Check is NOT REQUIRED if the student is over 15 years of age
  • If the student is under the age of 18 and paid less than $112 per week the employer is NOT required to withhold tax, collect a TFN declaration, issue a payment summary or payslip or report payment details to the ATO.
  • Structured Workplace Learning allows students to gain hands-on skills related to the course they are studying at school as part of their VET or VCAL qualifications
  • Placements for structured workplace learning can be undertaken in one week blocks or on a one day per week basis.

How do I find out more information?

Contact Structured Workplace Learning Officer/coordinator at Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN by email or phone 5381 0122.

Talk About Lucky

Lauchlan McKean, Lucky to his mates, has had a cracking start to 2016 securing a full-time apprenticeship with Mick Cramer Smash Repairs.

Lauchlan enrolled in the VET in Schools Cert II Automotive program in 2015 through Skillinvest, as part of his VCAL qualification through Horsham College. During his work placement Lauchlan was able to demonstrate some of the basic skills he had learned in his VET course, a good attitude to work and an ability to follow instructions and work well with others. This resulted in Lauchlan successfully securing a school-based apprenticeship, leading to a full apprenticeship in 2016.

“I never pass up opportunities for work. I just tried to get into the work force a lot quicker because I couldn’t handle school. I found it really stressful, but at least here, we’re all free and get to do our own thing,” Lauchlan said.

“I’d never even thought about being a spray painter. I wanted to do automotive and work on light vehicles, Genni Smith from school said I should suss out my options and see what’s around.” Lauchlan said that within a couple of weeks, he loved it. “It’s hard work, but at the same time it’s part of the job, you’ve got to suck it up and do it and the guys around here make it enjoyable. Mick’s a really good boss, but you’ve got to get the job done right. He’s willing to teach you if you want to learn. You have to listen and take in what he’s saying, if you’re not going to show him that you want to listen then he’s just not going to bother trying to teach you. I’ve learnt a lot from Mick himself, by showing him that I’m listening, I’m dedicated and I want to learn.”

Mick loves having Lauchlan as part of his team “I personally believe youth are the future, therefore they must have a chance to create,’ Mick said. “School based apprenticeships are a great way for the employer to have a good look at the possible future employee and vice versa. It gives the student a chance to have a good look at the trade.”

Lauchlan said he had learnt a variety of skills “Even the way I sweep floors or wash cars, has all changed,” he said. “You surprise yourself with how much you learn. I got to spray paint my first couple of things the other week. I painted Mick’s bird aviary for him and did all the preparation. I painted the door of my first car recently. They’ve taught me how I should be standing, how far away I should be holding everything and the speeds and how loose my body should be. To pull off the perfect job, you have to get all of that perfect.”

“Attention to detail is really important to us, so if your car is wrecked, come to Mick Cramer’s and we’ll fix it for ya!”

Interested in finding out how your business can benefit from hosting a student on work placement? Email the Structured Workplace Learning Coordinator at Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN or call 5381 0122.