27 June 2022

SPARK set to ignite career prospects for region's young people

| Sally Hopman
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View of worksite from above

The team from SPARK Yass last year helped with renovation work on the town’s Anglican Church. Photo: Yass Valley Council.

School wasn’t really the place for Jake Stockeld.

The young Yass man had left at age 15, certain that he didn’t want to stay there but less sure about where he wanted life to take him.

“School wasn’t really for me but since leaving I didn’t have much direction or idea of what I wanted to do,” he said.

That was until support staff at the local TAFE College where he was completing his Year 10 told him about SPARK. When he heard it might help him find a job, he decided to sign up.

SPARK is a 15-week program designed to improve educational, social and economic opportunities for young people in regional areas and the ACT.

“The support staff at TAFE showed me a flyer for SPARK and I thought it might help me find a job, so I gave it a go,” Jake said.

“The SPARK program even worked with me so I could continue my Year 10 with TAFE and do the program. They treated me like an adult.”

READ ALSO Women rule the roost at TAFE Primary Industries awards

Jake completed the SPARK Yass Construction Program in August last year on a renovation project at the Yass Valley Anglican Church.

Young man

Young Jake Stockeld didn’t know what he wanted to do at age 15, except that going to school wasn’t an option. So he signed up for the SPARK work experience program and hasn’t looked back since. Photo: Yass Valley Council.

After the course, he secured a Certificate II in Construction Pathways and a Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.

He also received his White Card – the mandatory work card required in Australia to be employed on a construction site, full PPE (personal protective equipment) and hands-on experience working on the church project. This included concreting, paving, excavation, timber work and brick and block laying.

“The SPARK program made me much more confident,” Jake said.

“The practical work we did at the church taught me the basic skills I need for a worksite and I now build on these skills in my new job.

“Working with so many different people helped me learn how to work in a team and the skills and knowledge from the theory units are useful and relevant to work.”

Since completing the program Jake has landed a position as a civil apprentice for Transport NSW which he describes as “awesome”.

“We do a lot of maintenance work on the roads, highways and signs. I get to travel to Sydney to do my study and I work with a great team,” he said.

“SPARK was amazing for me. It pulled me out of the hole I was in when I left school; it motivated me, got me some qualifications and taught me a lot for life.”

The Yass campus of TAFE NSW will again host the SPARK program for young people this year in partnership with Ginninderry, Yass Valley Council and headspace Yass.

READ ALSO: $240,000 funding to restore historic Yass courthouse

Guy using chosel on wood.

Jake Stockeld learned a range of new skills under the SPARK program and now has an apprenticeship in the trade. Photo: Yass Valley Council.

Ginninderry’s Head of Community, Training and Employment, Emma Sckrabei, said the success of last year’s program demonstrated the benefits of providing such a career pathway for young people in regional areas.

“The SPARK Yass Construction Program gives locals access to hands-on accredited training and work experience without the need to cross the border,” Ms Sckrabei said.

“Yass is a fast-growing regional centre and our successful model aims to build critical skills and open employment pathways within our region.”

She said live training sites were an important part of the program, with hands-on training having a tangible impact on improving community spaces in Yass.

Headspace Yass, a support and counselling service for young people, is also involved in the project.

Spokesperson Billianne Bambrick praised the program, saying it could be life-changing for some participants.

SPARK is also being supported by the Yass Valley Council with Director of Corporate and Community, Lynette Safranek, saying it offered an opportunity to meet the demand for skills in the local area.

“We are proud to support a program that will provide our residents with direct entry into the construction industry,” she said.

“There is a high demand for these skills in our region, with many of our construction workers travelling across the border daily or to areas impacted by fires and floods in the past few years.

“This is a local program for local people.”

People interested in being part of SPARK 2022 are invited to attend an information and enrolment session from 11 am at TAFE NSW Yass, 51 Church Street, Yass, on Wednesday 22 June. Residents of the Yass district aged over 16 years are eligible to apply.

For more information visit the website.

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