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Metal Trade Skills Taster Course Trail

Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) is looking at expanding its successful Wool Works shearing school model to help introduce other in-demand skills to high school students. This week saw the trial of a hands-on introductory welding and metal fabrication school focussing on agriculture, in conjunction with innovative Armidale youth program BackTrack Youth Works.

Funded by Training Services NSW, the trial course ran over three days this week and will hopefully be the first of many for the region. There was one intensive day at the BackTrack site and two at Macintyre High School (MHS) in Inverell, where the 13 years 7 to 9 students study.

“These high school students are all bright sparks because they have donned the helmet and gloves to have a go at the welding and metalwork game. That is a winner move in itself. There is so much demand from employers in our region for metal trade skills, they will never want for work,” RDANI Chair Russell Stewart said. “Great local employers are currently offering apprenticeships and we are seeing in excess of $50 per hour in the jobs market in our region and that is not even in the mining sector.”

RDANI Executive Director Nathan Axelsson coordinated the WoolWorks Shearing Schools and now, the BackTrack Welding School. “Woolworks was developed in response to a critical shortage of shearers and this trial expansion to the welding and metal fabrication trades is a necessary progression. We need to be proactive and help our young people to experience what working in the metal trades can be like.

Macintyre High School Careers Advisor Deb Snaith said that working with metal in an industrial workshop was above and beyond what the students could ordinarily find at school. “The students can find school to be restrictive and constraining. They received instruction and supervision from highly experienced trades people,” she said.

“They were welding and grinding with creativity, making turtles out of old horseshoes. That proved to be a lot more memorable than a BBQ fork,” Ms Snaith said.

“It was awesome. It was much better than school,” said Jackson Burley from Year 8.

Mr. Axelsson has indicated that the trial was a success. As sparks flew in the workshop, the smiles on the students’ faces had him making plans for the future on day one.

“The BackTrack Youth Works facilities in Armidale are amazing and the people behind the great programs there, even more so. They embraced the concept of the trial short course and are always keen to broaden the reach of BackTrack, for the betterment of our region’s youth. BackTrack is a great environment for young people to learn and be a part of a team and we thank them for opening their doors to us for these programs,” he said.

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