Annual Report 2021
Piper Rodd – Chair Future Connect
I want to open this Chair’s report by warmly welcoming everyone into the Future Connect community, whether you’re reading this report online or attending this year’s AGM in person. Without your interest and involvement in, and support for, the work of the LLENs (Local Learning and Employment Network) and the communities of Brimbank and Melton, Future Connect wouldn’t continue to not only exist, but to grow and thrive.
I didn’t anticipate after writing last year’s report that we’d all experience another year of lockdown and disconnection from colleagues, being separated for many more months from friends, family, workplaces and community. We didn’t predict, during such unpredictable times, that the young people, at the very heart of Future Connect’s focus, would endure another year of remote schooling and diminished work experience opportunity, as we all hoped, that Covid was behind us in practical terms. But throughout all of this social and economic upheaval, the work of Future Connect, that I praised as exceptional, extraordinary and of unexpected necessity last year, continued into 2021/2022 as Deirdre and her team contorted themselves, adapting their delivery and services, to respond to the needs of the communities they serve. And they grew and strengthened in their results, exceeding the objectives set by the Board to which they report, and those of their Victorian Government funders.
I spoke last year in my report of the importance of community and human connection as a lesson we all learnt of the first year of lockdown. In the precariousness of the past year, Deirdre and Lea, Lyndsay, Alice and Megan pulled together to recreate and reimagine community in the absence of a traditional, physical sense of connectedness for countless young people and their families in Melton and Brimbank. They have done this by building more relationships with local businesses and government agencies, growing their autonomy and strengthening their excellent reputation in the communities they serve. Notably, they have worked to develop their social enterprise initiative, engaging multiple community voices, seeking input from a wide array of local residents, businesses and educational institutions. This idea, co-designed with young people themselves, will now come to fruition thanks to that collective hard work of many who have contributed their time, ideas and enthusiasm, all qualities that Deirdre and her team inspire in so many.
Deirdre and her team have continued to expand their reach and influence in Melton and Brimbank by meaningfully engaging with those who live and work in their communities. This is the value of the LLEN network, celebrating its twentieth year in 2022, remarkable for its work in creating meaningful, place-based opportunities for those at risk of disconnecting from education, training and employment. I commend to you this annual report and thank the Board, Dan, Gail, Maree, Reana and Quinn, and Deirdre and the Future Connect staff for their continued dedication to the communities of Brimbank and Melton.
Executive Officer's Report
DEIRDRE HARDY – EXECUTIVE OFFICER FUTURE CONNECT
2021 was in many ways an incredibly successful year for Future Connect. We explored ways to live our drive to connect young people in the West to their futures. We were able to successfully shift events on-line when necessary and adopted new technologies readily.
Further to our commitment to always honour the voices of young people and centre them in the work we do, we have incorporated co-design in our planning and the way we work. We were thrilled to welcome Alice Ames to our staff to embed Human Centred Design in our projects.
It was particularly gratifying to see employers and young people come together when we workshopped the problem: How do we empower and equip young people to forge forward by building their confidence and the community's perception of them through events and opportunities that encourage their journeys and give them a voice. We were grateful for the support of the Advisory group, made up of school staff, council staff, RTO staff and employers.
Alice also worked on Realise Your Potential; a co-design project with neurodiverse young people which was funded by Brimbank Council. This workshop was co-facilitated by Chris Varney and held on-line using Miro. Alice and Chris did an amazing job at including all the participants and ensuring they all contributed and were heard.
In May (between lockdowns!), we held the Brimbank Career Exploration Day at the Taylors Lakes Reception Centre. Lea Lucas always does an amazing job at co-ordinating the day. This time was particularly complex with the added complication of COVID restrictions. Every year at least one exhibitor tells me our Careers Day is their favourite and we are always thankful to the many exhibitors who attend.
The SBAT Advisory Group came together four times in the year and helped plan the successful SBAT Breakfast (which was postponed twice before we decided to do it online). This group also developed a comprehensive SBAT Resource: https://futureconnect.org.au/the-journey-of-a-sbat-student/ . Lyndsay Mandaru pulled together many disparate suggestions and examples to create the resource and co-ordinate the SBAT Breakfast. One participant described it as ‘the best online event I’ve been to” (and we all know we’ve done a lot of those!).
We were pleased to welcome Megan Cooke to our team as Work Placement Officer. She has fantastic skills and networks coming straight from a recruitment role. She has fitted in with the team incredibly quickly which is a testament to her interpersonal skills as she didn’t get to meet anyone face to face for months after starting mid-lockdown.
Di Debrincat threw herself into the start of the year with her usual enthusiasm and drive. She started a number of fantastic initiatives and we were pleased she has decided to embark on another phase in her life although sad to see her leave Future Connect.
Support from our peripheral staff always makes our work possible and Tina Chronis our Consultant Accountant, Drew Harrison, who supports us with IT, and Dave Fuller who assists us with our website, again showed their expertise and I thank them for their flexibility, professionalism and commitment.
Quinn Li has continued to work on our design ‘jobs’ as well as contributing to social media. I continue to marvel at their speed and ability to understand my vague ‘I just want it to feel less corporate’ or ‘I think we need a younger colour’. Although, perhaps they just create what they first thought of and pretend it matches with what I meant!
2021 saw a change in the way we co-ordinate the Career Practitioners’ Network with Cathy Armstrong from St Albans Secondary College very ably Chairing the network. She is a committed and respected member of the network and the perfect choice. We thank her for her on-going support and drive.
We were also lucky to have Jerome Mamo work as a volunteer at several events and then as a mentor on the Project Ready sessions at the CALM School.
In addition to formal ‘volunteers’ we were thrilled to have so many young people, community members and employers participate in our many projects. This included being panel members at events, participants in workshops and interviewers in our Practice Interviews. We are grateful for their time and willingness to support the young people of Brimbank and Melton.
I also recognise how lucky we are to have a board with diverse life and professional experiences who are continually supportive and contribute greatly. They provide both vision and clarity.
2021 was nonetheless a very difficult year and our region was particularly impacted. Many schools had significant positive case numbers and were closed due to positive cases. The emotional toll of this, on top of the logistical nightmare, is awful. The fact that the teachers and students have continued to engage with our work is a testament to their strength.
Realise Your Potential – workshop for neurodiverse young people
On Tuesday 19 October 2021 Future Connect hosted the Realise Your Potential workshop for neurodiverse young people which was co-facilitated by Chris Varney from the ICAN network.
We had 14 young people attend the workshop which was held over Zoom and used Miro as the online collaboration tool.
The purpose of the workshop was to co-design career development activities for Future Connect to run in 2022 for neurodiverse young people. The workshop unpacked the unique strengths and challenges of the young people and brainstormed ideas to make career activities accessible and inclusive.
To make the workshop more accessible we had Jessamy Gee, a graphic recorder from Think In Colour to bring the words to life in pictures during the workshop.
The young people developed the idea of a series of resume writing videos, made accessible by being short (2-3 minutes), focused on one topic per video and featuring good and bad examples. We look forward to working on this in 2022 with the young people involved.
We would like to thank all the young people attending the workshop for their input, story sharing and ideas.
This workshop was funded by a grant from Brimbank City Council and we extend our thanks for Council for this funding.
West As Project
The overall aim for West As is to help young people and employers in Melbourne’s West to better understand, empathise with and support each other so that we can work towards mutual benefit and success for both groups.
Through our co-design workshops in 2021, three key project ideas have emerged:
- Future Recruit
- Westside Coffee
- Lets Connect
We have started by focussing on the Future Recruit Project. This project aims to develop ways for employers to give young people meaningful feedback during the job application process. We have created a subgroup of employers and young people to advise us on Future Recruit with Mariah Magri and Julia Coscolluela from Brimbank City Council, Quinn Li and Megan Cooke.
Together we have developed a prototype feedback form for employers. The next steps will be to test the prototype with employers and then pilot the feedback tool. We will be asking employers:
- Does this guide you in providing feedback?
- Is it simple to use?
- Could you incorporate it in your recruiting process?
We will also check in with young people that the process:
- Gives them meaningful feedback that they can action
- Guides them on any changes they need to make
Ultimately, the aim of Future Recruit is that young people are able to successfully apply for jobs with local employers and local employers will have great candidates.
In 2022 we plan to continue working on Future Recruit and to further both the other projects. If you would like to be involved in the Advisory Group or Co-design workshops please contact Alice Ames firstname.lastname@example.org
Brimbank Careers Exploration Day 2021
The 2021 Brimbank Careers Exploration Day was held on 10 May 2021 at the beautiful Lakeside Banquet & Convention Centre in Taylors Lakes.
This valuable day for students in the Brimbank area was made possible by the wonderful support provided by our Partners:
- Brimbank City Council
- Federation University
- JobFind Centres Australia/Angus Knight Institute &
- Victoria University
Over 50 exhibitors were present on the day representing Universities and TAFES, Job Active, DES, RTO, GTO and employment sectors.
This event, hosted by Future Connect, is an event that our local Brimbank secondary school students really look forward to. When we asked students what was the highlight of the day they responded with “Being able to see the different courses and university options, it really made me excited to continue studying after graduating” and “The opportunity to speak to the representatives and ask their opinion about the information I want to know”.
Structured Workplace Learning (SWL)
We do not need to tell you that 2021 was another difficult year for our students and local employers. Students were unable to attend their SWL placements until very late in the year. During this time, we said goodbye to Dianne Debrincat and welcomed our newest team member, Megan Cooke.
Megan’s role at Future Connect is Work Placement Officer and she is working on all things SWL. In her short time with us, Megan has already made a big impact. With the continuation of lockdowns and no in-person SWL allowed, we had to think outside the box. Megan developed an online alternative for students completing qualifications in Building & Construction as well as Hair & Beauty.
We continued to work hard bringing on new SWL opportunities ready for 2022 and have had some fantastic organisations come on board to offer valuable placements to students. These opportunities are across varying industries including Health & Fitness, Hair & Beauty, Building & Construction as well as some exciting opportunities within logistics. We know these industries continue to be some of the most popular VET courses and biggest employers in the west and so we are excited to be working alongside businesses and schools to make these opportunities as accessible as possible.
Future Connect 2021 SBAT Breakfast
In partnership with our SBAT Advisory group we delivered our first ever SBAT Breakfast event online. Like most events, our annual SBAT Breakfast was cancelled last year due to the restrictions in place at the time. This year was not looking great for face to face events and the decision was made to move it online.
The event replicated the same format as the face-to-face event, we opened with an update from Daryl Sutton from the VCAA. We then moved on to a networking session utilising a breakout room for each provider, this allowed school representatives to move freely through each of the rooms. Feedback included: ‘The breakout rooms was a good opportunity to ask direct questions.’
This year we changed the format to include a Q&A session with current or recently graduated SBAT students. It cemented the why. Closing the event centring the focus on the young person and hearing how SBATs worked for them really brought together the purpose of the SBAT Breakfast. When we asked school attendees ‘What did you enjoy most about the SABT Breakfast?’ One of the responses we received was ‘Positivity of all involved and loved the introduction of the student panel.’
The panellists were Nicole who is 20 years old and currently working for the Metro Tunnel project as the health and safety administrator and studying a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe university. As a former SBAT student she worked on the metro tunnel project where she was able to experience how a complex construction project is completed and find herself a pathway after successfully graduating in 2019 from VCAL.
Our second panellist was Charlotte, Charlotte is a year 10 student who is completing her SBAT in hospitality. ‘I really enjoyed the experience and the friends I've made along the way.’
When asked about what they enjoyed about the SBAT Breakfast, attendees’ responses included: ‘We were able to gain insight on the different providers and we could take that knowledge and assist our students who would like to do SBAT or is considering SBAT’ and ‘I would like to see the breakfast continue to be an annual event.’
Some of the additional feedback we received was:
‘I think it is a really important event. Having the privilege of working with the SBAT Advisory Committee, I feel I have a good understanding of what is out there, and this event is particularly helpful in building on existing and forming new relationships between providers and schools, no matter how experienced we are!’
‘Great work to the team at Future Connect! It is difficult to have an engaging session online, but I think you succeeded today. Thanks for inviting us today.’
International Women’s Day Event
On 10 March 2021 Future Connect hosted an aspiring event for Brookside College’s Year 9 and 10 girls to coincide with International Women’s Day. The theme for the 2021 event was “Choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements”.
The event kicked off with an introduction by Future Connect Executive Officer, Deirdre Hardy who welcomed all guests and set the scene for the day’s activities.
Brookside College’s Principal, Violeta Dellidis, also welcomed guests and shared a little of her journey to becoming a Principal, emphasizing the importance of celebrating Women’s Achievements and supporting each other.
Di Debrincat then took over as emcee, Guest Speakers were introduced and a Q & A session commenced.
Our wonderful Guest Speakers were:
- Ranka Rasic, Mayor of Brimbank and small business owner
- Lyndel Connolly, Train Driver with Metro
- Rachel Cowling, Fire Fighter with Fire Rescue Victoria
- Ashleigh Duncan, Operations Coordinator with Red Cross
- Jasmine Duncan, Paramedic Graduate with the Department of Health
- Cassie Norman, Proactive Policing Unit with Victoria Police
- Renee Barry, Proactive Policing Unit with Victoria Police
After a lunch break the students participated in an Activity and Vision Board session with Sacha Kaluri from The Motivational Company.
The students completed a feedback survey before the event concluded mid-afternoon.
SBAT Advisory Group
In late 2020, Future Connect formed a SBAT Advisory Group and set out to achieve 3 key objectives:
- Develop awareness and understanding of SBATs
- Promote SBAT opportunities
- Form an effective SBAT network
We are happy to say that the SBAT Advisory Group has successfully achieved all that it set out to do.
With the support, input, and guidance from the Advisory Group we have developed a student centred SBAT resource to explain all things SBATs to a student or their parent/guardian. There are also some great links to resources and templates for school staff. You can find The Journey of a SBAT Student here:
We ran an event to promote SBAT opportunities and provide connections between providers, support organisations and schools. The SBAT Breakfast was held on Thursday 9th September and was attended by over 55 people from school representatives, SBAT providers, support organisation and VCAA. A great result for an event that was in person, postponed and then moved to online.
When asked about what they enjoyed about the SBAT Breakfast, attendees responses included: ‘The positivity of all involved and loved the introduction of the student panel’ and ‘We were able to gain insight on the different providers and we could take that knowledge and assist our students who would like to do SBAT or is considering SBAT’ and ‘I would like to see the breakfast continue to be an annual event’
Other initiatives coming from the SBAT Advisory group has included a LinkedIn SBAT group that we are in the process of setting up. This will provide young people currently completing an SBAT and those who have recently completed an SBAT an opportunity to connect and exchange experiences and support each other.
We would like to say a huge thank you to the members of the SBAT Advisory Group for their time, contribution, and input and look forward to working together again in 2022.
SBAT Advisory Group Members:
Lisa Denys, Springside West Secondary College
Joanne Galea, Melton Secondary College
Lucy Taylor, Kurunjang Secondary College
Cathy Armstrong, St Albans Secondary College
Daniella Passalacqua, Keilor Downs Secondary College
Sarah Keogh, Hester Hornbrook Academy
Julie Pilioglou, Caroline Chisolm Catholic College
Katerina Crichton, Gilson College
Evan Henry, NextGen Jobs
Peter Venables, Integrity Business Solutions
Stuart Gillespie, Integrity Business Solutions
Chris Coleman, VCAA
Kathryn Hughes, MEGT
Irene Mountakis, MEGT
Work Readiness Program at Jackson School
In 2021 we had the opportunity to return to the Jackson School to deliver our Work Readiness Program. We were originally all set to deliver the program in Term 3, but like many events the program was shifted to Term 4 and delivered completely online.
The opportunity to work with the staff and students at the Jackson School has again been one of the major highlights of the year. We have been blown away by the enthusiasm, commitment and eagerness shown by all students.
We facilitated our first two workshops, Resume Writing and Interview Skills via Zoom. We updated our delivery from last year so that students completing the program for the 2nd year were able to add depth to their learning. We used Miro, an online whiteboard, to help make the online workshop as interactive as possible.
The final event in the Work Readiness Program was the practice interviews. We had hoped to deliver the interviews in person but unfortunately Covid restrictions meant the safest option was to deliver online. We received a great response from our industry volunteers who were all keen to assist students further develop their confidence and knowledge around how to respond to interview questions. It was so great to see students reference the information they had been taught in class and during our workshops. Every student was prepared and had their resumes ready and prepared questions ready to ask the interviewer.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to deliver the Work Readiness program at the Jackson School. We look forward to improving the program even more and helping students be as prepared as possible for the workforce. Fingers crossed for an in person program in 2022.
Careers Practitioners’ Network
This year we welcomed a new Chair for the Careers Practitioners’ Network, Cathy Armstrong. Cathy along with the support of Future Connect led the Careers Practitioners’ Network through another tough year as we juggled several lockdowns and the switching between remote and onsite learning.
The Careers Practitioners Network meet once a term, at the meetings we have the opportunity to hear from a range of people and organisations about the work they do to support young people in the Melton and Brimbank area and how our Careers Practitioners’ can utilise their services. This year we welcomed Daryl Sutton from the VCAA and Deepa Golani, DES & NDIS Manager from JobFind Centres Australia. In Term 2 we were lucky enough to meet in person and take a tour of the new Sunshine Campus of Hester Hornbrook Academy. We heard from Sam De Silva about LOOKOUT and the support available for vulnerable cohorts such as students in out of home care. During our Term 3 meeting we heard from Jeffery Lai who shared with us the work that Equal ED and the programs they deliver in schools.
Special guests and tours are a great feature of our Careers Practitioners’ Network meetings, they complement the opportunity for attendees to connect and debrief. It’s a chance for Careers Practitioners to hear and discuss what’s working and what isn’t working in schools.
To ensure the content and set up of the Careers Practitioners’ Network meets the needs of the group, Future Connect will be running a series of co-design opportunities in 2022.This is a great professional development opportunity and also helps to create a network that truly fulfills the needs of our Careers Practitioners.
This year we also launched The Networker. A fortnightly newsletter of curated content for Careers Practitioners. We identified a need to streamline our communication. Future Connect are a central point for organisations to contact who are seeking connection to schools, so instead of inundating mailboxes with more emails a more efficient solution was created. Keep an eye out for The Networker as it continues to evolve in 2022.
We would like to thank everyone who attended our Careers Practitioners’ Network meetings in 2021, thank you for your support and contribution. A huge thank you to our Chair, Cathy Armstrong for your guidance and leadership. We are extremely grateful for all that you do and the time taken to contribute to this network.
We look forward to seeing the great work and connections we can make as a network in 2022.
African Homework Club –
Over the last year we have had the opportunity to partner with Ezana from Debre Genet St Michael’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Ravenhall. It was an opportunity to work with, and support their community, specifically young people about their education pathway and employment aspirations.
Our sessions took place on Friday evenings during Homework Club. The Church is a hub of activity most evenings, with many young people attending Homework Club 4 or more times a week. Younger pre-schoolers attend literacy classes.
We used the opportunity to introduce young people to the Career Development Cycle, focusing on the Understanding Yourself quadrant. This worked well for the group of approximately 25 young people who varied in ages. We adapted our delivery to ensure the content appealed to each individual, regardless of their level at school. Understanding yourself, your skills, interests, values should create the foundation for study and employment pathways. We built on this session by assisting the group with resume writing, interview skills and overall confidence as they move into casual employment.
Our workshops were very well received and the conversations that followed the sessions were positive. It was such a great experience and opportunity for us, in most cases, the young people in our group live in non-English speaking households, are the first to attend Australian schools, and if they choose, will be the first in their family to go on to further study. Everyone was welcoming and grateful for the opportunity to learn more about themselves and their future. We look forward to working with the African Homework Club again in 2022.