The system or the people?

kerrygrace-2014 Challenge

I’m angry.

What’s she raving about now you may ask?

It’s something that’s been bugging me for a while.  A long while.

I’ll let you in.

As you may know I have a keen interest in adding value to government initiatives that have been designed to make the lives of everyday people better.  I’ve been involved in Work for the Dole and other employment programs, adult education, enterprise development, community development etc. etc. from design to delivery.

Even though my 15yrs on the job is a drop in the bucket as compared to many of my colleagues I’ve been around long enough to see good programs get shelved, bad ones come in their place and then the good ones get re-badged and re-hashed years on.  I get these things need to change.

There is one program, that is school based traineeships (SBATs) which I believe have an enormous amount of capacity to work but geez, even as an employer advocate I’m having an incredibly difficult time maintaining my patience with this program, and the people who exist within it.

Let’s take my first SBAT, Mackenzie.  I employed Mackenzie in Grade 10, close to half way through his school year.  I didn’t know how SBAT’s worked at the time (I’m still not sure I do) so we gave ourselves a little extra lead time.  The signup process took us TWO school terms.  TWO freaking terms to push some paper around.

There is an inordinate amount people involved in the system.  The registered training organisation, the apprentice support service, the Department of Education person, the school, the parents and – oh the employer and employee (trainee).

Nevertheless, Mackenzie and I bumbled through the traineeship, he flew through the learning and despite the RTO being useless as tits on a bull whittling down the promised onsite visits and demanding my trainee travel an hour each way to class – and there’s more but I need a breath. (note, we’ve since found another RTO which actually ‘get’s service)

As for the training plan I can’t even imagine how it would feel to get to the end of two years of senior education to discover I wasn’t eligible for an ATAR – that magic mark which equates to university admission.  Yes, there are loopholes but that’s not the point.  WHO didn’t check the training contract properly?  WHO didn’t stop to notice that this kid wanted to go to university and a recognised mark might just help?

Anyway, in the end not only did he graduate, he had an awesome on the job training experience and left for the UK right after school a confident, articulate adult with two years of solid office experience under his belt.

The traineeship worked.  And that’s all I cared about at the end of the day.

So, last October I signed up a second candidate, Grace.

Can you imagine my disappointment when, AGAIN I discovered the training contract has been lost in the wash.

Just this week I discovered the training plan signed in OCTOBER disappeared and we have to start again.  Thank goodness I again applied my only sure system trick – to start early.  As Grace enters Year 11 we are signing the thing again, my eyes are rolling and I’m hearing systematic warning bells.

Why don’t more employers put on trainees?  I don’t think it’s the fear of employing young people.  I think it’s THIS systematic failure of mass proportions.

Anyway, this time I complained earlier and have been assisted somewhat by one of the governing bodies who have identified some training needs among their colleagues.  We changed training provider and this school has an awesome and engaged career counselor.

There are still tones of ‘not my responsibility’ and ‘that’s the system’ – thus the length and tone of my message. I’ve had a gut full of this attitude.

The way I see it is this…

School based traineeships have the capacity to create enormous change in the life of a young person and, for that matter a business as well.  I have loved the opportunity to have the influence and vibrancy of a 16-18 year old in my work place.

I am annoyed up to the eyeballs that ‘the systems’ that govern this – (or, is it the people who implement the system who blame the system?) play such an enormous role in making it difficult.  It’s like they are purposely making the process heavy and difficult, hand balling blame and responsibility among themselves and chortling at anyone who exploits the difficulties.

To those people I’d like you to listen and understand this.  Young people in our communities are dying.  Those who are most entrepreneurial / creative find it difficult to find a space in sporty regional communities.  Opportunities like school based traineeships can offer a lifeline to these young people enabling them to understand that there is life outside the humdrum of school life that doesn’t ‘get them’.

And even in situations that are not so dire these opportunities can really set a young person up for life – imagine, completing a HSC with experience AND paper.  What a leap ahead.

So (and I do apologise in advance to my polite readers) – next time you choose to respond with ‘it’s not my responsibility’, ‘I don’t have time’, or you just LET the young person get lost waiting for someone else to make the call – just PULL YOUR FINGER OUT and move into action.

Having said that – thank you to those who have helped.  If you’re an employer considering a School Based Tainee take a deep breath and do it.  Realise that you may have some administrative headaches and start early. The opportunity of employing ‘new ideas’ and enhancing the life of a young person is beyond worthwhile.

Thanks for listening. xx