1 Apsley Court, Blue Haven, NSW, 2262
Set up in 2012 in response to the Federal Government’s Teenage Parent Measure (an extension of the Compact with Young Australians) Skills for Tomorrow offers young mothers the opportunity to gain a foundation qualification as well as additional vocational credentials while offering high quality childcare for their children. The program is delivered by the Hunter Institute of TAFE in partnership with several government, non-government and community organisations. The main location is in Wyong shire, a regional area with a teenage pregnancy rate of 6.4%, compared to the NSW state average of 4.1%. During 2012-2013 4 cohorts have participated, 3 at Blue Haven and 1 at The Entrance, with a total of almost 50 students. The program is designed to be portable, so may be offered at other locations where there is interest. A cohort is planned for the Lake Macquarie region later in 2013.
How this program works
Skills for Tomorrow aims to enable young people facing substantial social and economic barriers to gaining education and employment to engage with the learning process, define their educational and career goals and embark on the path to achieving them. It uses a partnership approach including several faculties of the Hunter Institute of TAFE, the federal Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), the NSW State Government Department of Human Services (DHS), Child and Family Services Wyong Shire Inc, Schools as Community Centre Blue Haven, and Regional Development Australia – Central Coast. The program is underpinned by a strengths based philosophy with successes and achievements celebrated.
Skills for Tomorrow is offered in 2 stages over 18 weeks, plus a long term follow-up stage. For stage 1 the program offers a soft entry for 10 weeks, with students attending 2 days per week in the local community centre with child care on site for their children. During this time they complete a foundation qualification (Certificate II in Skill for Work and Training or in Community Services). During stage 2 the students move on to take some classes at the Wyong and Ourimbah TAFE Campuses to gradually familiarize the participants with the TAFE environment and to complete vocational taster units (some of which may count towards a Certificate III) in fields such as Children’s Services, Health Services and Barista Skills. These courses are chosen in response to local employment needs and student interest. For this 2nd stage, students are assisted to access high quality early childhood services, to replace the childcare service at the community centre. The program also includes systematic mentoring and individual case management. Social media (texting and Facebook) are utilised to maximise engagement. By offering childcare and transport the program addresses the most common barriers to returning to education for young parents. Upon completion, the follow-up phase enables ongoing mentoring for up to 3 years through the Reaching Your Destination program to maintain community connection and access to services, and where relevant assist transition into Certificate III courses at TAFE or into work.
Positive outcomes, indicating the success of this program, include: fostering a sense of belonging and re – connectedness, countering common young parenting stereotypes, improved early childhood experience for the students’ children, and achieving the knowledge, skills, credentials and confidence to continue onto further study or into employment.
Credentialed attainment: Course completion, of a Certificate II as well as vocational Certificate III pre-vocational units, so far is 92% (cohort 1, 2012), 100% (cohort 2, 2012) and 75% (cohort 3, 2013).
Destinations and pathways: From the two 2012 cohorts 62% of graduates are enrolled in further study, such as a Certificate III in Health Services. One student commented “I can now go for what I have always wanted” (2012).
Engagement and participation in learning: Attendance was nearly 100% for the first cohort (2012). The success of the inaugural 2012 program has led to 1 additional cohort in another location (The Entrance) in 2012 and 2 more cohorts at Blue Haven in 2013, for a total of over 40 students in 2012-2013.
Health and well-being: mid-course 100% of students rated their satisfaction as 4 or 5 on 1-5 scale (5+ excellent) (2012). A student commented “this has been life changing for me” and the crèche provider commented “Shy parents who would not speak or look you in the eye are now happily conversing”. High quality childcare is provided for all the children of the students, a new experience for many of them. The program reduces social and emotional isolation especially through the peer group: “I enjoy coming here because I am able to connect to other young mums”. One student returned to class on Tuesday after giving birth on the Friday before, saying “This is where I belong”.
Productive partnerships: cooperation among staff from TAFE faculties overcame the traditional ‘silo’ approach. In addition, the program fostered interagency collaboration: “The program has harnessed a dynamic and diverse range of government and community workers” (TAFE teacher, 2012)
External recognition: Winner of the 2012 Gold Award in the “Inclusion” category at the annual TAFE NSW Innovation and Excellence Showcase. The relevant federal minister commented in parliament that the program was a model worth replicating.
Why this program is successful
Staff identify the educational scaffolding, wrap-around community support (including early childhood services) and interagency collaboration, and the strengths based philosophy as fundamental to the program’s success. Students identify peer support (the other girls) and having the crèche right there as supporting their engagement.
Sources of information
TAFE NSW Hunter Institute (2012). Skills for Tomorrow. Submission to the 2012 TAFE NSW Innovation and Excellence Awards.
TAFE NSW Hunter Institute (2012). Skills for Tomorrow video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zm1cGph8bY&feature=youtu.be
Please note, where possible and appropriate, we have adopted the language and terminology used by the program sources (italic fonts) and referred to the most recent publicly available information.
This vignette was developed in 2013 by The Victoria Institute for Education, Diversity and Lifelong Learning (part of the Australian Government’s Collaborative Research Network) for the project Putting the jigsaw together: innovative learning engagement programs in Australia and supported by the Ian Potter Foundation.