P-TECH helps students with workplace learning

More schools should adopt innovative new approaches to help young people prepare themselves for the ever-changing world of work, says Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott.

Programs that link business to students interested in the STEM fields -- like P-TECH, offered at Geelong’s own Newcomb Secondary College – are a great example of this, she says.

Ms Westacott visited Geelong for the Strong Australia Network forum held in October.

“Being open to different styles of learning and experimenting with a wide range of methods is a cultural shift we will need if we are to deliver outcomes for all school students.” - Jennifer Westacott, CEO, Business Council of Australia

In Geelong, the P-TECH model has seen local businesses including Bendigo Bank work with Newcomb Secondary College to offer mentoring and workplace learning while giving the student a nationally accredited qualification.

For Year 12 student and Newcomb Secondary College school captain Jack Terrill, the program has led to an offer of full-time employment for after he finishes school.

During Year 10, he started spending alternate Monday afternoons meeting with his mentors at Bendigo Bank, while also studying a Certificate III in business at Gordon TAFE.

He was offered a school-based apprenticeship in business at the bank for the following year, while he was in Year 11. As well as the on-the-job-training, he’s gained other important skills like critical thinking and communication. 

He didn’t expect he’d end up kicking off his career in banking.

“But then once I got offered the traineeship, it fitted perfectly,” Jack says.

He likes engaging with the local community and working with people from different age groups as “we all feed off each other and learn different things”.

“We get our regulars and we get to check in and see what they're doing.”

Senior branch manager at Geelong West Bendigo Bank, Chris Barker, who is Jack’s mentor, says the student is a “pretty key part of our branch”.

“The staff are inspired to engage in something different” when Jack is at the branch on the two times a week that are a part of his school timetable.

Newcomb Secondary College principal Phil Honeywell says that P-TECH has allowed students to pick up “different capabilities, critical thinking, a lot of digital capacity building in areas that schools would traditionally find very challenging to teach”.

“I would like to see a schooling system that is flexible and can adapt to a whole range of different organisational needs and is actually really good for the young people too.” - Phil Honeywell, Principal, Newcomb Secondary College.

Microsoft Australia managing director Steven Worrall, who will be on the Strong Australia Network panel, says that continuous lifelong learning would be the key to success in the future.

AlphaBeta research showed that by 2040, Australians would acquire 41 per cent of their knowledge as adults.

“If you compare that to today, where the average Australian acquires more than 80 per cent of their knowledge and skills before the age of 21, it’s clear we need to rethink our approach to education and skilling,” Mr Worrall says.

The Business Council’s Future-Proof report highlights the need to create a culture of lifelong learning. The report proposes giving every Australian a Lifelong Skills Account that can be used to pay for courses at approved vocational education and training and higher education providers as a way to enable people to upskill and reskill over their working lives.

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