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New South Wales: description of the Training in Retail and Commerce scheme, an HSC subject to prepare youth for work -

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New South Wales: description of the Training in Retail and Commerce scheme, an HSC subject to prepare youth for work



KERRIE DOUGLASS: In Newcastle, a vocational training scheme already under way has won praise from the Prime Minister. It's called the TRAC system, and it's been set up by a non-profit organisation called the Dusseldorp Skills Forum. Kerrie Douglass reports.

KERRIE DOUGLASS: With its strong industrial base, there was a time when jobs were not so hard to come by in Newcastle, especially for the young. They could leave school and walk into an apprenticeship with relative ease, but not any more. Now unemployment overall is running at 11.8 per cent, and for the young it's even worse. Almost 20 per cent of teenagers here, are looking for work.

Ryan Brooks counts himself as one of the lucky ones. He finished school last year and found a job almost immediately; that's because for the last two years, he was enrolled in a program called TRAC - training for retail and commerce.

RYAN BROOKS: I heard about it in year 10, and I thought that it'd be probably my only opportunity to do work experience in year 11. And I think that if I didn't do TRAC, really, I wouldn't have got a job.

RICHARD SWEET: Well, the idea, in a sense, really originated from young workers and the community in the Hunter, itself. I mean, we wanted to put in place a national demonstration project to show that there were better ways of preparing young people for the labour force. And we started off with a group of young workers from the industry, itself, and we said to them 'What was it like for you when you moved from school into the labour market?', and they almost universally said it was terrible. And then we said 'Why?', and then we said to them 'Well, what should be done about it?'. And that's how TRAC basically grew.

KERRIE DOUGLASS: Initiated by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum, TRAC has been embraced by the New South Wales Education Department. It's recognised as a subject for the Higher School Certificate.

TRAC students spend 8 hours a week in a variety of workplaces. At the end of the course, they're assessed for the HSC and they also receive a certificate.

JODIE LOVAT: The skills that we do on the TRAC program have been set out by employers, themselves, and they're skills that they want when they're looking to employ someone.

KERRIE DOUGLASS: So being in TRAC gives you can edge over other people who are looking for work?

JODIE LOVAT: It does. It puts you a step ahead. The HSC is becoming a lot more common now, so you need something a little bit extra to put you one step ahead of the rest, and the TRAC certificate will definitely do that.

RICHARD SWEET: It differs from work experience in that there's a formal curriculum, there's formal assessment, there's formal quality control. It's part of their Higher School Certificate. They get recognition for it by the school. They get advance standing in it from TAFE. Industry gives them a certificate. And it leads somewhere. It's recognised.

SHAYNE BENDEICH: Mainly, you get opportunities for careers, a lot of different careers you see that you never thought of before; confidence, talking to people; experience that employers really need.

KERRIE DOUGLASS: How important is the employer's commitment to this scheme?

SHAYNE BENDEICH: If there wasn't any commitment from the employers, I don't think the TRAC scheme would have been rated so high as it is.

STUART TRENCH: The students come in from the schools and get experience from our staff. We're finding that our staff are actually benefiting because we don't put them with our managers, we put them with the staff who are on the counter. And they're getting quite a bit of experience out of it, because it upgrades their own career. They're seeing they're passing their experience on.

KERRIE DOUGLASS: TRAC operates in just six Newcastle schools, and Gateshead High has the largest number of participants. Many of these students have already experienced unemployment in their families, so they're eager to gain whatever foothold they can, while they're still at school.

UNIDENTIFIED: Some of you only have months to go before you're leaving, so if you can outline the area you think you're heading for and how TRAC might help you get there. All right? So, we'll start over here with Kelly.

KELLY: Well, it's given me a lot more confidence to do stuff, like just go up to someone and talk to them. I used to be shy and too nervous to do stuff like that. So, I've really improved.

UNIDENTIFIED: TRAC gives you more confidence. You can just go up to people and talk to them, which you need to do in the police force.

KERRIE DOUGLASS: But with all the advantages of vocational school training, the TRAC system can only work properly if its successful participants have jobs to apply for. In essence, it's just one small part of what has to be an overall solution.

What would you say to Mr Keating about the TRAC scheme?

RYAN BROOKS: It's a great opportunity for young people these days. If the TRAC program wasn't around when I was going for a job, I wouldn't have got a job. Probably to ask him to extend it to other parts of Australia, to give other people a good opportunity, like I did.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: The TRAC system for work experience. Kerrie Douglass reporting.