Again, throughout 2011, the Beacon Foundation has been working together with Komatsu and other national companies to help address the issues of poor school retention, disengagement and youth unemployment

_becon-picx2-(1).pngAgain, throughout 2011, the Beacon Foundation has been working together with Komatsu and other national companies to help address the issues of poor school retention, disengagement and youth unemployment with around the 14,000 students undertaking the Beacon program in 120 Australian schools this year, writes Jo Breen, Beacon's National Communications Manager.Too many young Australians are leaving school without a positive pathway to further education, training or employment.

Currently, around 18,000 of Australia's 16 year olds are not in full time work, education or training, and the issue of disengagement is further exacerbated in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage.

Established as a not-for-profit over 21 years ago, Beaconworks directly with schools and communities to help young people transition from school to work, equipped with the skills, knowledge, confidence and opportunities to reach their full potential.

Critical to Beacon's success is the support of local and national business partners, such as Komatsu Australia, working together to provide mentoring, work experience, mock job interviews, site tours and even real job opportunities through the Komatsu Apprenticeship Program.

This year Komatsu's relationship with Beacon Australia-wide has been significant.

In South Australia, Komatsu's Daryl Bennett and Sean Candy have met with Beacon to discuss work experience opportunities and the Komatsu Apprenticeship Program, and are keen to provide 40 work experience placements for students at two of the state's Beacon schools, Mark Oliphant College and Oceanview College.

In Tasmania during November, Komatsu Manager Tim Freestone and his team participated in an "Industry Uncovered" day where students from Geilston Bay High School and Geeveston High School were able to climb aboard a Komatsu 3 tonne excavator as part of the experience.

Tasmanian Beacon Partnerships Manager Anthony Stewart said the experience of being behind the controls just "blew the kids away" and one student, previously identified as a disengaged student, is now seeking employment with the Flagstaff Gully Quarry after the day captured his interest.

For young people to be able to navigate their options, and understand the relevance of life beyond the school gate, they need to experience first hand what is out in the real world of work.

"These sorts of events and experiences where young people can climb aboard an excavator and make the link to how this could one day be a viable job option is invaluable," Anthony said.

In NSW, during Term One this year, Komatsu's National Apprenticeships Manager Gavin Manning addressed eight Beacon schools in the Hunter and Port Stephens area on the Central Coast, to talk about work experience and the Komatsu Apprenticeship Program.

An open day and sausage sizzle at the Tomago plant for approximately 90 students, resulted in 43 students attending work experience at Komatsu's Tomago and Mt Thorley Plants during Terms Two and Three.

Former Beacon student and now Komatsu second-year apprentice Luke Robey, who's based at Komatsu's Tomago Plant, addressed students participating in Beacon charter signing ceremonies at two Newcastle-region schools: Francis Greenway High School in Beresfield and Irrawang High School in Raymond Terrace.

Under these charter-signing ceremonies, students sign a pledge to pursue further education, training or employment beyond Year 10.

At Irrawang High School, first-year Komatsu apprentice and former student Scott Bell also spoke about his lead-in to Komatsu's Apprenticeship Program.

Additionally, Tomago Branch Manager Craig Burgess, along with Komatsu's Newcastle service administrator April Finlay and Gavin Manning have attended various business events, charter signings and speed careering events around the state.

A highlight this year was Team Vodaphone V8 Supercar drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes visiting Rutherford High School near Maitland, in the NSW Hunter Valley, organised by Mt Thorley Branch Manager Reg Rogers.

Beacon Partnerships Manager for the Hunter and Central Coast region, Dyan Thais, is extremely proud of the Komatsu relationship and recently announced that Hunter River HS work experience student Drew Farrell was successful with his apprenticeship application at Komatsu, to start in 2012.

"For young people to transition onto positive pathways they need to be personally equipped with knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed decisions, and to have appropriate post-school opportunities available and accessible," said Scott Harris, Chief Executive of the Beacon Foundation.

"They also need support to navigate their options and disappointments throughout the transition period.

"Beacon's recent Outcomes Report shows that we are having great success with the program and the whole-of-community approach," he said.

"Beacon students are six times less likely to be disengaged than students who have not participated in the program, and the unemployment rate for Beacon students, is five times lower than the national rate for 16 year olds.

"Beacon schools also report an above average progression of students from year 10 to year 11.

"It is companies such as Komatsu Australia, working together with Beacon, who are helping to help make a difference," said Scott.