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NRL School to Work – developing a career pathway


Group of six youth and one adult, all Indigenous, wearing black tops and standing arm in arm on a carpeted floor in front of a blank wall.
Helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth transition from school to satisfying employment. Photo courtesy of the NRL School to Work program.
15 Sep 2017

Getting an education and skilling up for employment is not easy. Getting personal guidance and support can make all the difference.

Shaun Humphries is the National Rugby League (NRL) School to Work program manager. He and his 14 project officers (mentors) deliver the program to 400 Indigenous students in years 10 to 12 across 11 regions in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

‘Students from selected schools self-nominate to participate in the program,’ Shaun said.

‘Students must give up their free time to participate in the program, as well as maintain a greater than 85% attendance rate at school. They work with their project officers to identify an aspiration then develop a career pathway to achieve that aspiration.’

Developing a career pathway requires much thought and preparation. The School to Work program offers needs based experiences in many forms.

There is work experience at NRL game day activities as well as large organisations such a Qantas, Westpac and Hutchinson Builders.

Excursions might include visits to NRL sponsors, universities and TAFEs.

There are goal-setting workshops and career quizzes. Students learn how to write resumes and cover letters, and create business cards. They study the impact of social media and digital media.

Students are given access to connect and link up with service providers allowing them to complete short courses in a range of areas from first aid, to food handling and hygiene and training on how to be a barista.

And, of course, they receive constant support from their mentor (project officer).

‘Students meet with the region’s project officer at regular school visits and in the community and develop a firm connection over time,’ Shaun said.

‘They work together in culturally appropriate ways which empower the student to achieve personal and professional goals.’

As each student achieves goals, the feelings of satisfaction spread to the mentor and beyond.

‘For too long we have heard negative stories that are perpetuated upon Indigenous Australians,’ Shaun said.

‘But when our participants’ great achievements are celebrated and shared within the NRL community and greater corporate networks, it is helping to change the story of our people in the community.’

This program owes much of its success to those who lead it.

‘I have always wanted to provide a voice to our young people. To be able to provide them with a positive, strong role model, that sometimes our young Indigenous people do not always get,’ Shaun said.

‘I like to inspire and motivate through my actions and like to show my students that anything is possible. I also believe that respect and integrity are super strong values and I try to set an example of this in all my interactions with my students.’

Find out more

Getting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to school and onto a career pathway is a high priority for the Australian Government.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet funds the NRL School to Work program under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy through the Jobs, Land and Economy Programme. The NRL School to Work program  expects a total of 1,500 participants over the next three years.

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