Program aims to help close the employment gap

Year 12 student Bailey is a completing his chef apprenticeship

A South Australian program, aimed at getting Aboriginal students on a career path, has expanded its efforts to help close the gap.

Key points:

  • The Aboriginal Career Exploration program aims to help students find meaningful employment
  • It also encourages students to finish high school
  • Students are also preparing to take part in the SANTOS Aboriginal Power Cup this weekend

The South Australian Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy (SAASTA) is working with the Workabout Centre to give 550 Aboriginal students across the state the opportunity to find meaningful employment, while encouraging them to finish high school.

In its second year, the Aboriginal Career Exploration program (ACE) has grown by 400 students with 60 stalls and service providers taking part in this year.

Regional coordinator for the Workabout Centre, Isaiah Omamogho, said the program’s targeted approach made it different to standard career expos.

“We want to basically expose them and immerse them in as many industries and pathways as possible so that they can go back to their school and have an informed decision on what subjects they need to do,” Mr Omamogho said.

Stallholders are given tips on how to engage with students and focus on providing plans for both short-term and long-term employment to ensure their pathways are achievable.

“We’ve had a lot of anecdotal evidence of students having an idea of the careers they are interested in,” Mr Omamogho said.

“But for some, by the end of the program it was something different just because they realised their skill sets and abilities were suited to a different industry, which is great for us to see.”

The program coincides with the 15th annual Aboriginal Power Cup, where students play the final game at Adelaide Oval before Port Adelaide’s match against Essendon this Sunday.

Students need a minimum 80 per cent school attendance to participate in the sports carnival.

Students encouraged to dream big

From a young age, Bailey always loved to cook.

“When I was three my mum would put me up on the countertop and let me crack the eggs into the cake mix,” he said.

“Most of the time there would be egg shells inside the mix, but that was okay.”

Year 12 student Bailey is a completing his chef apprenticeship
Year 12 student Bailey is a completing his chef apprenticeship.(ABC News: Ethan Rix )

The year 12 student took part in the first career expo and is now working at a restaurant while he completes his chef apprenticeship.

Bailey said the program helped him dream big.

“I want to eventually own my own restaurant,” Bailey said.

“I was kind of tossing up a few things like metal work, being a paramedic, but ACE helped me realise I’m meant to be a chef.”

Program also helps keep kids in school

Gemma is a hands-on year 11 student who wants to turn that skill into a future job.

“They gave us a bit of a taste-tester so we did a bit of bricklaying, bit of carpentry and tiling and after that I just knew it was for me,” she said.

An Indigenous student smiles at the cameraAn Indigenous student smiles at the camera
Year 11 student Gemma is hoping to become a carpenter and a teacher.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

But her career aspirations do not stop there — she also hopes to become a teacher one day.

Gemma said her attitude to school had changed since being part of the SAASTA program.

“I’ve had so much support from the SAASTA teachers,” she said.

“They tell me I can do this, I can do that, like hopefully I’m going to finish year 12 so that’s the plan.”

Now she said there was no question whether she would achieve her goals.

“There’s no ‘if I did this, if I didn’t do that’ – it’s going to be ‘I did it’,” she said.

Employment and a connection to culture

For Jacob, it was people from the Workabout Centre like Isaiah Omamogho who inspired him to build a greater connection with his culture.

“I’ve wanted to be an Aboriginal educational teacher — so teaching all the young mob what I have learnt so they grow up and know all the knowledge about where they are from and how to speak their language,” the year 10 student said.

An Indigenous boy standing next to a sign promoting jobs for Indigenous students at KmartAn Indigenous boy standing next to a sign promoting jobs for Indigenous students at Kmart
Year 10 student Jacob got his first job at Kmart through the program.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

The Ngarrindjeri and Wakka Wakka student said he had always been shy, but has since opened up after learning about his own culture.

“Growing up I didn’t really know where I was from, what my tribes were, or how to speak my language,” he said.

From taking part in the program, Jacob has secured a casual position at Kmart.

“During high school all these Workabout centres helped me get my first job and it’s all linking up now,” he said.

Aboriginal Power Cup kicking goals for students

As well as aiming to keep kids in school, the Aboriginal Power Cup is hoping to help achieve similar stories to Jacob’s.

The carnival is delivered in partnership with the South Australian Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy (SAASTA) with direct alignment to the South Australian School Curriculum.

The program, held during the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Round, aims to celebrate and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their contribution to Australian Football.

Port Adelaide midfielder, Sam-Powell-Pepper said he wished he had a program like it when he was growing up.

Sam Powell-Pepper tucks the ball under his arm and runs away from Clayton OliverSam Powell-Pepper tucks the ball under his arm and runs away from Clayton Oliver
Sam Powell-Pepper says he wishes he had a program like the Aboriginal Power Cup when he was growing up.(Getty Images: Mark Brake)

“I didn’t have something like this and I don’t think there is anything like this,” the Port player said.

“At that age I wasn’t too sure about my culture as much as I wanted to be, but things like this will help kids understand where they are from.”

Students are also working on a choreographed cultural dance to perform in front of thousands of fans at Adelaide Oval this Sunday.



Author: Ivan Robinson