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TOMAGO ALUMINUM PARTNERS WITH HUNTER RIVER HIGH SCHOOL

ONE OF OUR CLOSEST NEIGHBOURS, HUNTER RIVER HIGH SCHOOL, IS NOW RANKED AMONG THE STATE’S LEADING TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOLS AND THAT IS EXCITING NEWS FOR US.

The school recently launched its 2019 ‘Pathways to Technology’ (P-TECH) program and Tomago, as well as a number of other leading businesses based in the Port Stephens region, were involved, visiting the school for the launch.

P-TECH, part of the government’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program, is an approach to learning and development that will help meet future employment needs.

Employer demand for STEM qualifications and skills is high and will continue to grow. Currently, 75 per cent of jobs in Australia’s fastest-growing industries call for workers with these skills.

To be competitive, Australian industry needs people who can adapt to a rapidly changing workplace and Hunter River High’s program has been planned to develop those learning and portable skills pathways, catering for secondary students who have employment in the various advanced manufacturing and engineering trades as their employment goal.

That is a positive for engineering companies in the region and five of them – Tomago, Ampcontrol, BAE Systems, Jetstar and Varley Group –are now the school’s technical partners.

“Our Apprentice Supervisor, Greg Wall, has visited the school several times and this year we invited the staff back to our workshops. In 2020 we will be one of their industry partners,” said Mal Muddle, Tomago’s Site Services Maintenance Superintendent.

Starting next year Tomago Aluminium, as one of the school’s industry partners, will bring Hunter River High’s P-TECH students into its work experience program.

“We’ve always had an affection for our local school and we’ll always have an affection for their students because we can help them and by helping them we are helping ourselves and the local community,” Mal said.

“Hunter River High is one of the most successful schools in Australia doing this (kind of training) and getting it off the ground. They are already partnering with several large businesses with BAE, Jetstar and Ampcontrol and Tomago is one of the biggest players in this area.

“The school is excelling and we’re pleased to be part of that success. We’re partnering with a school that is doing great work. It’s a win-win story.”

Tomago’s association with Hunter River High is also particularly special for Mal because it is his old alma mater.

P-TECH was initiated at the school in 2017 by its then-new Partnership Officer, Liana Nadalin. The school may have been a late starter in the technology race but it has proven itself a fast runner, quickly becoming an educational benchmark.

An engineering workshop overseen by head teacher Shane Lloyd was revamped and refurbished to meet current industry standards at Ms Nadalin’s suggestion and an impressive high function, industry-led and approved trade school facility reinvigorated by Mr Lloyd and Ms Nadalin using the P-TECH model.

At the same time, the school reached-out to major engineering companies based in the region and started forming technical partnerships with them, giving students additional hands-on experience.

Ms Nadalin said interaction with local engineering businesses has given the school’s 46 Year 11 and 12 students involved with the program a better understanding of the expectations of industry by creating a strong model for them.

“I call it front-end loading,” she said. “ We are giving the students the skills and confidence needed before sending them out into the workplace, focusing on the essentials rather than the job itself. Industry will teach them the job.”

The school’s P-TECH program has kicked goals from day one and has already been assessed by the NSW Department of Education as one of the best in the state.

“It gives us a sense of pride to know that the school is excelling and we are part of that,” Mal Muddle said.

Several former Hunter River High School students have passed through Tomago Aluminium’s apprenticeship program and this new partnership could well see that number increase.

For school principal Deb Dibley it is all about engaging young minds.

“The students don’t know what they don’t know and they can only benefit from these quality partnerships that engage both our students and their families, both at school and in the workplace,” Ms Dibley said.

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