2023 Learn Local Award winners

The 8 winners of the 17th Learn Local Awards were announced at the Learn Local Awards Gala on Friday 24 November 2023.

The 8 winners of the 17th Learn Local Awards were announced at the Learn Local Awards Gala on Friday 24 November 2023.

The awards celebrate great individual success stories, leadership, programs, innovation and collaboration in the Learn Local sector.

We congratulate all our 2023 winners and acknowledge the inspiring work of all our 2023 finalists.

Victorian Learn Local Innovation Award

Baptcare Language and Literacy Enrichment Program, Carringbush Adult Education

Baptcare is a faith-based, not-for-profit organisation that provides residential and community care for older people and vulnerable community members. They discovered that their in-home support program was at risk because they struggled to support employee skills development. On partnering with Carringbush Adult Education, they developed the In-Home Care Language and Literacy Immersion Pilot.

In-home support workers were largely made up of migrants and refugees. They lacked language, literacy, numeracy, employability and digital skills and were at risk of losing their jobs because they couldn’t fulfil their role requirements.

Once Baptcare identified that staff didn’t understand the importance of daily reporting, Carringbush created an innovative solution – a 10-week contextualised group learning program tailored to Baptcare’s needs. Participants built their language, digital and numeracy skills, learnt how to understand care plans, work safely with customers and complete role reporting. Outstanding staff improvement meant Baptcare could be confident about delivering quality in-home care.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Program Award (For small providers)

Sew and Grow, Kensington Neighbourhood House

Two women in Sew and Grow

Stitched into the fabric of African–Australian women is the 60-hour pre-accredited course, Sew & Grow. The program was co-designed predominantly with mothers from Somali backgrounds and is delivered through Kensington Neighbourhood House (KNH). More than a sewing course, it provides language, literacy and numeracy training and employment pathways. During course design, participants expressed the desire to develop sewing skills and industry knowledge.

Launched in February 2022, 39 women have participated to date. Students identify the items they’d like to make and upskill under the guidance of experienced teachers and volunteers. Industry knowledge and networks are built through regular excursions to community organisations specialising in clothing production, including social enterprise Second Stitch.

Learning is project-based and strong wrap-around supports remove learning barriers and facilitate strong commitment. Knowing that they can turn to KNH for any support helps participants maintain focus as they make their way into paid employment, further training or volunteering.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-Accredited Program Award (For large providers)

Starting work as a cleaner – our collaboration with Spotless, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services

Starting Work as a Cleaner program participants

Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services (LCMS) established the pre-accredited training course Starting Work as a Cleaner in collaboration with Spotless. It’s targeted to jobseekers from a multicultural background, predominantly refugees and graduates can continue into employment as hospital cleaners at Bendigo Hospital.

Utilising full bilingual support, language, literacy, numeracy, digital and employability skills are taught with an emphasis on foundational knowledge for a health setting. The course is run in a training room at Bendigo Health, so participants become familiar with working at a large, busy hospital. Back-of-house tours and meeting reception staff, supervisors and other employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds helps trainees feel welcomed and safe.

Starting work as a cleaner became LCMS’s most successful employment pathways program. It’s achieved an incredible reputation with multicultural communities. Of the 78 participants who undertook training, more than 50 have successfully entered employment with Spotless, and more than 65 gained employment in the cleaning industry.

Victorian Learn Local Partnership Award

Just in Time Industry Grant Project 'Hungry 4 Success – Training', Glen Park Community Centre Inc, Eastland Shopping Centre and the Glad Group

Participants in Hungry 4 Success

Hungry 4 Success – Training is a pre-employment program offered by Glen Park Community Centre, in partnership with Eastland Shopping Centre and Glad Group property services. It was created specifically for people living with significant issues that hamper life success. This includes mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and repeated interrupted learning. The training transforms lives by breaking the cycle of unemployment.

Learners develop the attributes to achieve paid employment in industries such as hospitality, cleaning, security, maintenance and guest services. In partnering with Eastland Shopping Centre and Glad Group, learning and employment opportunities expanded. Learners undertook ‘a day in the life’ trade taster, to experience various roles and services, which fostered confidence.

On completion they have the option of a job or steppingstones to further education and training. The training has a high completion rate of 77%, with most participants going into further education or gaining employment.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Trainer Award

Laurie Niven, Pines Learning

Laurie Niven

The structure of language was once tediously drummed into students by old-fashioned grammarians. Not so for Laurie, who teaches grammar at Pines Learning. Her classes are usually at capacity and have high retention rates. With a particular focus on grammar skills and writing for work, Laurie inspires positive change in students’ lives. Improved communications skills lifts their performance at work and in their personal lives.

During 2022, she taught Speak Up, a speaking and listening course focusing on fluency, colloquial language and pronunciation, and an intermediate and advanced level reading, writing, speaking and listening course, aimed at refining workers’ English skills.

Laurie goes to great lengths to present information and makes it relevant to everyday work and social life. Students tell each other stories about their lives and experiences, which enables them to practise and retain language. Laurie treats students like they’re family members as she delivers inspiring and enriching instruction.

Victorian Learn Local Leadership Award

Heather McTaggart, The Basin Community House

Heather McTaggart

As Manager of The Basin Community House, Heather made great strides to turn the organisation into a viable, thriving educational facility that transforms the lives of vulnerable people, including people exiting the justice system.

To change the lives of people leaving prison, she innovated the Employment Skills Pathways to Employment program that delivers online group training to enhance literacy, technology and employability skills. The weekly program provides a safe learning environment that encourages learners to find purpose and develop healthy self-esteem. Job agencies also attend classes to promote employment opportunities. As a result, many of the learners find employment.

In her work with people with disability, Heather finds training opportunities that lead to jobs. In partnership with catering social enterprise, Tasty Az, an introductory hospitality course was accomplished in a commercial kitchen. Other Learn Local managers regularly turn to Heather for advice and guidance, and she generously shares her ideas, insights and experience.

Victorian Learn Local Pre-accredited Learner (Skills for work) Award

Isabella O’Hara, Cire Services

On presenting to Cire Services, Bella was a shy young woman, lacking confidence and self-esteem. She felt defined by her disability and figured that she probably wouldn’t ever get a job. Once trust was established Bella opened up, her confidence soared, and she became a completely engaged and eager participant who inspired everyone she met.

Bella participated in two pre-accredited programs, the 23EMPFUTURE course designed to develop independent life skills and the FICE (First Impressions Clothing Exchange) Future4me employability program.

As Bella’s confidence grew, she found her voice. Determined that her disability wouldn’t continue to define her, she continuously challenged herself and soon began sharing her story with others living with a disability. Now, Bella is a staunch disability advocate through her membership of Yarra Ranges Council Disability Advisory Committee. She’s also secured part-time employment at a local bakery while she continues building her skills through the FICE program.

The Ro Allen Award – Learn Local Pre-accredited Learner (Skills for study and life)

Ayan Daher, Kensington Neighbourhood House

Ayan Daher

Born in Somalia, Ayan, the youngest of 9 children, was unable to attend school. Her first educational experiences happened when she came to Australia. In 2021, Ayan joined the Kensington Neighbourhood House Reading & Writing for Work course. Exceptionally determined and a highly motivated leader, Ayan supported the development of the pre-accredited program Sew & Grow, launched in 2022.

Sew & Grow was designed for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds with complex needs, including mothers looking for flexible employment, small business opportunities or connection. Fostering and nurturing participants, Ayan mentors fellow students in basic sewing.

Although she prefers to be out of the limelight, Ayan’s contributions to major events don’t go unnoticed. In 2022 Moonee Valley City Council described her as one the most engaged and inspiring participants in their Women’s Leadership program.

Time at Sew & Grow reinforced Ayan’s desire to become a fashion designer. She hopes to establish her own business creating clothing for Muslim girls and women.