Komatsu's and Beacon provide a solid foundation of opportunity

Ingham-state-high-school-web-(2).jpgIn early 2002, Komatsu Australia kicked off its relationship with the Beacon Foundation.

Scott Harris, Beacon's CEO, looks at some of the highlights and achievements of the relationship over the past decade. For more than 20 years, the Beacon Foundation has been working with Australian schools and businesses to divert young people into meaningful work, training and educational opportunities rather than welfare-based options.

And for the past decade, Komatsu Australia has been an important supporter of Beacon and what we are aiming to achieve. Over this period, Komatsu Australia has been an organisation that has not only provided Beacon with significant financial support to run our programs across Australia, but has also really got its "hands dirty" in talking to young people about the challenges and opportunities open to them.

Many Komatsu employees have taken the time to visit Beacon schools and share their stories, while also letting students come into the company's workshops on tours and for work experience. Komatsu staff have also attended often in their own time charter signing events, career expos, conducted site tours, speed careering and participated in teacher professional development (PD) workshops run by Beacon.

I'd like to look at a few highlights over the years. A unique Beacon machine, as part of Komatsu's involvement in Beacon, we've frequently had Komatsu excavators being transported to schools, giving students the opportunity to sit in operator's cabs and tinker with machinery.

One of these Komatsu excavators is unique, having been painted by the late, great Pro Hart. In 2001, Pro was commissioned to paint a Komatsu excavator, which was then auctioned with the proceeds going to Beacon.

Successful bidder Gavin Markwell from the Markwell Group in Townsville has remained a huge supporter of Beacon over the years, particularly with Ingham State High School.

Every year he transports his Pro Hart excavator to Ingham State High School when it has its charter signing symbolising the on-going commitment of industry to the school and Beacon. Newcastle's ongoing efforts.

In 2008, the team in Komatsu's Newcastle branch put up their hands to take kids from nearby schools for weeks at a time to see what working as plant mechanics would entail.

Since then the branch has taken on several apprentices and trainees from our schools. Last year, staff at the branch even designed a course for interested students to help bridge the gap between school and the Komatsu workplace really inspiring stuff!

Loganlea champions and an Expo Komatsu people have championed Beacon within local communities like Loganlea in Queensland, where they had a particularly strong link with the school's agricultural department and Komatsu's Reman facilities, bringing others to the table with them to support local young people.

In 2009 a highlight of the Komatsu- Beacon relationship was the joint initiative Komatsu Expo. Held at Loganlea SHS, around 100 year 10 students took part in hands on workshops with a focus on workplace numeracy and literacy. Rotating between six workshops, students completed sessions on safety, parts identification, bucket measurement and identification, and machine measurement and identification.

This hands-on program enabled students to build their industry knowledge and employability skills, while bringing relevance to the mathematics and English curriculum and answering some of those questions students had about the relevance of classroom topics to the real world.

Many of Komatsu's staff were involved in this program both on the day and in the development. In addition, Komatsu transported four pieces of heavy machinery to the school site for an impressive equipment display. Many students had no prior knowledge of the heavy machinery industry and had certainly not considered a career path within it; however, following the Komatsu Expo their knowledge of and motivation towards potentially choosing a career with an organisation such as Komatsu has increased dramatically.

Currently we are working with Komatsu on possibly revisiting the expo, as well as more involvement in teacher PD days and introducing them to Business Blackboard. Most recently, Beacon has set up a school in Townsville this year and the Komatsu team there have already put up their hands to get involved.

In November 2011, 60 students from Geilston Bay High School in Hobart attended an "Industry Uncovered" event. Two Komatsu staff provided the opportunity for students to actually operate a 3 tonne Komatsu excavator, closely monitored by State Manager, Tim Freestone.

Beacon's National Conference for 2011 was held in Melbourne in mid October, attended by 150 delegates, with an additional 50 people attending the Conference Dinner. We are sincerely grateful to Komatsu for sponsoring the Award for the Most Outstanding Beacon School Cluster, which was won by the North East Victoria Cluster.

One of our proudest achievements working together is that several teenagers from Beacon schools are now Komatsu employees, in both apprenticeships and traineeships the ultimate successful outcome for our programs.

They include Luke Robey, who's been with Komatsu since January 2010, Drew Farrell, who commenced his traineeship at the beginning of this year. Drew, our latest Beacon apprentice, always had his heart set on being a Plant Mechanic.

Last year, as a Year 10 student from Hunter River HS NSW he took up the opportunity to attend a week's work experience at Komatsu Tomago in August 2011. As a result of this, he was invited to sit the aptitude test at Komatsu, and two weeks later, received a phone call from Gavin Manning offering him an interview, at which point Drew said he was "over the moon".

Following a medical examination, he received his Komatsu letter of offer. "I was just on top of the world I just couldn't believe it!" Drew said. Both are outstanding apprentices, and also true ambassadors for both Beacon and Komatsu and the opportunities they've been given.

This is the briefest summary of the contribution and achievements of the Komatsu-Beacon partnership over the past 10 years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Komatsu Australia who has given so much time and effort to making this partnership\ work, and giving something back to our young people. The journey still continues. As you'll note in the About Beacon sidebar, there are still tens of thousands of young Australians who are not in full-time work, education or training. Together we can all keep making a difference.

Even in 2012, too many young Australians are continuing to leave 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.

The Beacon Foundation has been working to address the issues of school retention, engagement and employment in Australian schools for over 20 years, and now operates its unique, hands on program in 137 schools nationally.

This year the Beacon program will reach 14,000 young students at a pivotal time in their lives, as they make decision about their future career paths.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. They also need support to navigate their options and disappointments throughout the transition period.

Critical to the success of the Beacon program is the supportof local and national businesses such as Komatsu and the wider community, working together with Beacon and schools to provide resources for program activities such as site tours, work experience, mock job interviews, mentoring and classroom-based visits.

These all help bring relevance to life beyond the school gate, and embed the Beacon philosophy into the school curriculum.

Beacon's 2011 Outcomes Report shows that Beacon students are six times less likely to be disengaged than students who have not participated in the program, and that 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. About the Beacon Foundation Relationship with beacon