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Salvation Army Joblink

The Salvation Army Joblink gave their HELP program a new lease of life by adding a photographic component. Modules were purchased from TAFE, staff received specialist training, students were more motivated, more girls joined the HELP program and overall participation rates increased. What started as an experimental bridging project now has the potential to expand into accredited pre-vocational training with articulation into TAFE courses.


The Salvation Army Joblink's general HELP program focuses on communication skills, literacy, numeracy and job search. Where necessary, sporting activities are incorporated into the program for early school leavers.

Young people who are potential participants, often lack the basic educational skills required to obtain employment or undertake structured training programs. Self-esteem is low and they lack the social skills necessary to remain in employment or labour market programs.

Staff at the Centre believed that a more focused vocational component to the HELP program would help motivate young people exhibiting these characteristics.

Project Objectives

By introducing a photographic component into the general HELP program, the Centre
sought to:

  • recruit more participants to the program
  • increase the self-esteem of participants
  • increase the motivation of participants
  • improve industry and community links
  • improve outcomes for participants
  • improve client consultation procedures
  • develop a more flexible approach to the program.

Project Activities

The Centre adopted a professional approach to the introduction of the new course component. They organised specialist guest speakers and paid for their staff to receive training in photographic techniques. They also purchased photographic equipment and established a dark room.

The addition of a photographic element made recruitment easier, particularly given the high cost normally associated with photographic training in mainstream services. It also led to an increase in the number of young women in the HELP program.

Consultation with the target group was both formal and informal. Methods included group goal setting and program formulation, feedback on program content and strategies, and participant evaluation of the project

Project Outcomes

The Centre ran three nine-week programs for 30 participants.

The greater maturity of participants meant that staff and clients were better able to negotiate their needs and preferences. The addition of an artistic and creative component allowed more space for participants to express themselves, to follow their areas of need and interests, and to shape the program.

The project clearly created space for dialogue on careers and vocational options. Some students now want to be photographers. With permanent facilities available in the Centre, many students use the program as a way of developing the skills necessary for acceptance into TAFE photographic courses. Project staff provide assistance to clients in developing portfolios, and ex-students who proceeded to TAFE still have access to the darkroom.

Even for those clients who recognised that photography was not a career option, the project proved beneficial. Self-esteem and confidence increased and they were introduced to a creative pastime that may stay with them as a hobby throughout their lives.

Staff professional development led to an increase in the motivation of teachers and improved relationships between staff and students. A heightened sense of enthusiasm pervaded the Centre.

The local photography shop has since referred students to the program and photography is likely to be a feature of all future HELP programs. Local retailers provided advice and discounts to students involved in the project, and a number of students joined the Blacktown District Camera Club.

The Centre initiated discussions with other HELP programs about having an exhibition, and as part of the International Year of the Older Person, undertook a joint project with the local neighbourhood centre to establish a photographic record of the changing nature of the local Bidwill area.

Success Factors

The project succeeded because it provided a change in direction that offered new opportunities for staff and students to develop skills and explore their potential. It skillfully integrated creative activities within a bridging framework that established links with the mainstream VET sector.

The development of relationships and local community networks also strengthened the project and clearly contributed to its success. Increasing the age requirements for HELP programs from 15-17 to 15-24 allowed older participants to join and their maturity contributed to the project's success.

Possible Improvements

In future, referral processes will be expanded to include further contact with TAFE and other providers. The number of guest speakers from the industry and workplace visits will be increased to enhance the photography component.

As the program becomes more established, staff would like to establish direct articulation arrangements between the HELP program and TAFE photographic courses. For this to occur, curriculum will need to be purchased, and staff may require further professional development.

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