Access to Emergency Services training quickly opened new education,
training and employment pathways for 11 early school leavers in
northern NSW. The Byron Youth Service offered the young people an
intensive program of short courses in areas such as first aid and
water safety. Local emergency service organisations provided specialist
training and voluntary work experience for the students, some of
whom have now gained paid employment as a result of the training.
Byron Bay Council sponsors the Byron Youth Service to run projects
and courses for a large number of transient and homeless young people
living in the Byron Bay area. Many of these young people feel alienated
by mainstream society and often have no interest in participating
in mainstream activities or lifestyles. Some have drug problems,
most are early school leavers and many have insecure housing arrangements.
The youth centre is responsible for developing activities that can
be used in a range of different contexts and situations. The centre
is always looking for different ways of encouraging closer links
between their client group and the wider community. They believe
that innovative, community-based projects provide a vehicle for
addressing the underlying issues of low self-esteem and lack of
motivation experienced by the young people.
Through a series of short courses, the Byron Youth Service introduced
a group of 17 to 24 year olds to training and work in the Emergency
Services field. The project aimed to:
some accredited training in Emergency Services
the participants' communications skills through teamwork
their confidence and self-esteem.
The project began with 11 young people researching the volunteer
emergency services operating in the shire. These included the State
Emergency Services, Rural Fire Brigade, Surf Life Saving, Coastal
Patrol, Local Council Pool operators and Rescue Helicopter Service.
All services were keen to participate in the project as it provided
them with an opportunity to gain new volunteers.
The emergency service agencies conducted the training and then offered
the students voluntary work. From early in the project, participants
experienced a great sense of achievement as they started passing
each of the short courses. Once a few successes had been established,
expectations of the team's ability rose.
The participants enjoyed what they were doing and achieved success
in difficult conditions such as floods and constant rain.
Attendance at communication skills and job search tutorials was
high and participation in group discussions and exercises more lively
than previously experienced by the tutor. The coordinator felt this
was due to a combination of the students' sense of achievement and
good group dynamics.
TAFE or industry-recognised courses completed by one or more of
the 11 students included:
- First Aid
- Pool Bronze
- Surf Life
Saving Bronze Medallion
- Ropes Instructor
began training for their radio operator's license for the Coastal
Patrol and worked one day a week inside the lighthouse for four
months. All participants wear uniforms and all are now members of
the Byron Surf Club, Rural Fire Bridge and the Coastal Patrol.
The students demonstrated a strong commitment to their voluntary
work experience with local sports clubs and agencies. Some continued
the voluntary work after the project finished, e.g. as pool attendants
or as members of weekend surf patrols.
Others gained paid employment - one with a local adventure tour
company, while another will go on to do a Sports and Recreation
Traineeship and a job with a dive shop once he completes his Dive
Master Certificate. Another student left the course to work on a
boat. The radio, First Aid and MSB licenses directly contributed
to his gaining the job.
Self-esteem increased markedly as the students passed each of the
exams. They appeared more confident and all thought they had a greater
choice of work or further study options. This was particularly impressive
considering how marginalised the young people were at the beginning
of the course.
The project was successful because it gave the young people a way
of contributing to the broader community in a meaningful and valuable
manner. When talking about the benefits of the project, most students
mentioned the ability to give something back to the community.
The project allowed the clients to achieve a number of successes
quickly and none of the group moved on until everyone had successfully
completed each course. This strengthened the group dynamic, reinforced
the support role of the group and contributed to the success of
the project in a major way.
In future projects, the coordinator would develop individual learning
agreements with each of the participants. These would identify the
electives the individuals wanted to undertake, times of attendance
and what they hoped to achieve. The coordinator thought the clients
would find such agreements useful as a record of what they hoped
to gain from the course and as an incentive to attend regularly.
A further improvement would be a camp at the beginning of the project
to develop team cohesion. The teamwork component of the project
became one of its most valuable aspects and future projects should
highlight this from the beginning.
It would also be better to start the project at the beginning of
spring so that the training could be put into practice relatively
quickly as summer approached.