Educators and employers network in 'work ready' Shepparton project

A new Shepparton program is providing opportunity for local employers and educators to get on the same page in preparing young people for work.

Called Industry Information Meetings, organiser Mary-Ann Linehan much prefers to call them ‘industry speed dating’.

Held at the end of a school day, 50 Greater Shepparton Secondary College teachers join a dozen or more employers in key Shepparton businesses, ranging from agribusiness, transport and logistics, local retailers, the legal profession and more.

Employers are on a stopwatch as they move from table to table, addressing small groups of teachers on their employment needs and expectations. Teachers quiz employers on what they can do to help students become ‘work ready’.

Greater Shepparton Secondary College Partnership Leader and Careers Practitioner, Ms Linehan said they wanted the same thing.

‘Employers want critical thinkers, organisers and team players who are engaged at work,’ she said. 

‘Teachers want critical thinkers, organisers and team players who are engaged at school.

‘It’s about bridging the gap for the benefit of all — especially our young people.’

To kick off each session, the group hears the good and bad news on local employment.

Leanne Hulm of the GROW Greater Shepparton project, which works to boost local procurement and job opportunities, said there were 21 major projects each worth $10 million or more launching locally in the next 6 to 12 months — beyond the current building boom now taking place in Greater Shepparton.

The boom coincidentally includes a new $119 million Greater Shepparton Secondary College campus to open its doors for the 2022 school year.

The economic activity is delivering high job demand, including 450 new jobs in the health sector alone. Yet Greater Shepparton has one of the state’s highest youth unemployment rates.

Michael Parker, Chief Engineer at Jeftomson Fruit Co, said his business was one of the largest employers in Shepparton, offering jobs at all levels, from senior management through to trade, gardeners, cleaners and more.

However, he can sometimes struggle to find staff for across the business.

‘I would like your students to open their eyes to the career opportunities they can find in Shepparton,’ he told teachers at a recent session.

Ms Linehan said the ‘speed dating’ program was a long time coming with 2020 Covid-19 restrictions delaying the initiative. 

She said the employer-educator conversations would continue as the new Greater Shepparton Secondary College rolls out unprecedented career and education pathways for its students.

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This year, Education Week celebrates the theme ‘Building Connections’. 

It is an opportunity for all primary and secondary schools, higher education, and early childhood services to showcase how they are building connections with the community around them. 

Education Week will run from 23-29 May.