Five participants from across Adelaide’s northern and western suburbs have secured 12-month traineeships at Playford Alive following their successful completion of a pre-employment program delivered by yourtown in partnership with Renewal SA’s Works Program, TAFE SA and the City of Playford.
The students undertook nationally accredited units from the Certificate II in Horticulture (AHC20416) qualification as part of the eight-week program, which blended classroom learning with hands-on training at Smithfield Plains’ Precinct Community Hub.
The project allowed the participants to gain skills in horticulture and landscape maintenance while transforming an unused area at the Precinct into a welcoming garden for visitors.
The graduates will now carry out general site maintenance at Playford Alive and deliver landscaping services at Lot Fourteen as part of their traineeships hosted by yourtown, setting them on the path to exciting new careers.
Works Program Acting Manager Ashlee Wilton said it was the first time the Works Program had partnered with yourtown on a pre-employment program, building on past collaborations where the social enterprise had delivered contracts across Renewal SA-led project sites.
The Works Program provided project management services and enabled delivery of wellbeing and interview workshops to the participants as part of the theory component.
“These opportunities build capacity and empower participants by helping them become work-ready for their next job and contribute to their community,” Ms Wilton said.
“Add to this the invaluable skills and insight that can only be obtained by working in real industry environments and these students are well on their way.”
yourtown Social Enterprise Manager Roland Chard said the program was transformative because it gave the youth opportunity - some for the first time in their lives.
“It’s big,” Mr Chard said. “It shapes a person (having that support).
“Most of the students haven’t had role models, so our trainers are providing that.”
The students attended the Precinct four days a week, working to create a citrus grove including fruit trees, flowering natives, a rosemary and lavender hedge, vegetable garden and succulent patch. Delivery of the project required both teamwork and problem solving with the students also creating water-saving wicking beds within the garden.
yourtown Enterprise Trainer Mark Webb said the site-based training appealed to this cohort of students. Like the trees they planted, he could see the students growing, both in knowledge and confidence.
“Working outdoors is good for them,” he said. “There is an enthusiasm and engagement about these kids. Digging a hole is not always fun but they are in there doing it together so there is a sense of team.
“And because of the diversity of trees, plants and birds there is always something to talk about and teach them whether that be about a spider or comparing two types of leaves.
“I can see them taking it in. For example, they’ll go and buy plants from the op shop on their lunch break and take them home to care for them and then report back.”
He said the program was also strengthening community ties - one of the key objectives of yourtown - with the students regularly interacting with members of the Precinct’s Men’s Shed.
“Building local connections is so important,” Mr Webb said.
“The kids are thriving because the more people they meet the more confident they become, and the other users of the Precinct are happy because they see progress of the garden and they love seeing young people happy.
“This should be happening in other regions.”
One of the unique aspects of the yourtown program is that it also employs a youth worker to teach practical life skills necessary to be successful in holding down a job.
“There can be so many barriers and outside influences to getting to work on time,” yourtown Youth Worker Carly Smith said. “They can be up all-night playing videos games, so time management is an issue. Or they might not have access to a car or mental health support. And food can often be scarce.
“We run life skills workshops that focus on non-vocational skills like good sleep and managing mental health, resume writing and managing conflict.”
Graduate Stefani Lane, 18, said this holistic approach promoted a greater sense of purpose for the students.
“The course has made me feel a lot more confident with everything,” she said.
“I’ve always second guessed myself, but the teachers are amazing. They know how to talk to you as a person. At high school everyone was looked at as the same but here I feel a lot more like an individual They are supportive and say, ‘choose what you think is right’.
“It’s really nurturing me.”
Mr Webb said providing such strong support to someone at the start their career had the potential to be life-altering.
“I like to think that we changed five people’s lives and have sown the seed for two others,” Mr Webb said.
The program was made possible through cross-government funding, support and partnerships between Renewal SA’s Works Program, yourtown, TAFE SA, Interskills Training and the City of Playford.
“The commitment and passion to get this program off the ground and deliver really good outcomes for the kids was extraordinary,” TAFE SA Horticulture Lecturer Collette Tuck said.
“Some of these kids haven’t had any opportunity to step out of a world where there is generations of unemployment or other factors preventing them from making a change.
“The opportunities they got given – things like getting their White Card for free so they can work on a construction site – and to see them come out smiling with so much pride in what they were doing was just fantastic. Everyone is winning out of this.”
For more information on future Works Programs opportunities visit https://renewalsa.sa.gov.au/community/works-program/