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The Prace Experience

Fostering Success: Learn Local and Industry unite to build careers and strengthen communities

Live Local. Learn Local. Work Local. It’s a simple concept that is paying dividends for the learners and employers in Melbourne’s north.

The partnership between adult education provider Prace and Mirvac and Winslow Constructors began in the thick of COVID-19 lockdowns in March 2021. Their co-designed training, an introduction to labouring in civil construction, prepares people for rewarding employment pathways in the northern and western growth corridors of Melbourne. 

Adults in the local area, who may or may not have worked before, learn relevant skills and gain direct contact with the people who will soon be their employers. 

The pre-employment training takes place at the Shared Space Community Centre located at Olivine Place – a Mirvac master-plan development of 4500 lots in Donnybrook. 

The content covers everything: from what the boss will expect of you; to communication; skill development; problem solving; self-management; and of course, workplace health and safety. The course provides a direct pathway to employment with Mirvac or Winslow and White Card certification. 

Investing in people

Caden Hart, from Winslow Constructors, recalls the call from Mirvac property group when the opportunity to work with Prace was offered. 

“It's a fortunate turn of events that they were Learn Local and not just the standard RTO. Because we're not then restricted to just nationally accredited skill sets. We could have a bit more flexibility and creativity as far as or how do we how do we generate some training here, which is going to sort of really prepare these guys as guys and girls as they transition into our workforce? 

“For most new labourers who join our business, this is their first job in the industry. They don’t really know what to expect,” he says. “They think it’s probably going to be an unskilled, short term job.” 

“But for us at Winslow, the focus is: how do we bring people on the journey for the long term?” 

The Learn Local pre-accredited program realigns that ‘short term versus long term disconnect’ between the worker and employer from the outset. 

“So young people taking their first step in the industry are just much better prepared,” says Caden. 

“They get about nine days’ worth of training before they have their first day on site. It sets them up to succeed.” 

Employable skills

Felimon Asel is on the first rung of his construction career ladder. He’s working as a traffic controller for Winslow, after completing the Learn Local program. And the father of two couldn’t be happier. 

“The local program was very good,” he says. “Prace is well known to us because we live nearby.” 

Felimon says one of the most valuable elements of the training was the importance of communication and its fundamental role in workplace safety. 

“English communication…I think for me it was a barrier to join in society and find a job,” he says. “It’s very important to me to learn English…and from there I can learn more skills about jobs.” 

Felimon was initially nervous about whether he’d get through the course with his level of English proficiency. But he made it! 

“I was happy and excited,” he says. “I did it because I got more support through Prace. That helped me be more confident and finish my course.” 

“I applied to work with traffic control and traffic management. That’s one of the most important things I’ve learned about safety on the road. How dangerous it is. And how I can control the cars and protect the workers. It’s very important that I am very clear with my words over the radio. I have learnt that and I practice every day” says Felimon. 

He laughs about the Aussie use of slang though. “I find it tricky...and hoping I can learn more about those words. 

Felimon says, “I would love to thank Winslow for employing me. I felt supported through the interview and I got the job. I’m excited now supporting my family.” 

Community reward

Libby Barker is the Education and Business Operations Manager at Prace. She’s passionate about the education outcomes she sees from the Learn Local program. Seeing people achieve their goals, and having a pathway to work and further study, is very satisfying for her.

“The best part about my job is the education side,” she says. “It’s the part where we get to walk into a community, work with that community; we might conduct surveys, chat over a coffee, or drop into the local netball club to determine what this community needs. Then we build courses from the ground up…and make sure people actually go from studying into work.” 

When Prace were initially recommended to Mirvac by the local City Council, the goal was to design local courses, for local people to get into local jobs. Then with Winslow joining the partnership, they were able to co-design the training to address the skills that were lacking in new employees. 

“Winslow brought the resources to contextualise the employability skills in the construction industry,” says Libby. “So between us, we’ve designed a pre-accredited training course that not only gives people skills, but gives them confidence to walk straight into a job. 

As Libby explains, “ensuring that (the Partners) are on the same page with what they want to achieve from the partnership is critical. Each partner brought to the partnership a commitment to provide time, thought and energy into the project.”

“And we’re finding that everyone who’s finished the course has been offered work. It’s real exciting, knowing people are succeeding in what they want to do.” 

The fifth intake for the construction course is about to commence at the Donnybrook site. Libby reflects on the diversity of students who’ve successfully completed the course. 

“We’ve had a lot of young men and women, and a few older people. We’ve had people from different cultural backgrounds; with low education to higher education – but just people who are really passionate about finding work. And not just work, but a career. 

“Every group coming though has been different and had different needs and the beauty is the teacher has been able to tailor (the course) to those student skills and knowledge they already have and build them up.”

“We feel confident they can succeed in the workplace. And take on more learning and more training with their employer,” she says. 

The Learn Local program is producing excellent results. It’s making a huge difference in the lives of local people. It is building skills that pave the way to a career in construction. And it all ties back to strengthening the local community. 

One of Libby’s favourite moments was when Felimon encouraged his son to also take part in the course. Felimon’s son is now also employed by Winslow and is on his own journey moving higher up in the organisation. 

“The Learn Local program offers something unique to the Victorian training system. It’s built from the ground up, with people who know their local area and what’s needed. And it results in authentic pathways. It’s a really great model that we can replicate with any industry partner and support more students into work.”