Head start trainees still going strong

By Sarah Cornell, GippsDairy

Being on the front foot and approaching potential employers when you’re seeking work is often a successful way to get a job as Jacob Kleeven discovered. Jacob is a student from Drouin Secondary College undertaking a dairy traineeship on Stephen and Anne Kent’s farm in Lang Lang, which is managed by Stephen and Anne’s son, Tom.

Jacob was in year 10 at Drouin Secondary College when he attended a meeting run by Head Start, a program funded by the Department of Education. It helps students get in to school based traineeships and apprenticeships. After hearing about options to do a school based traineeship, where students stay at school whilst attending TAFE one day/week and working 1-2days/week, Jacob decided that this was a path he was keen to take.

Jacob, who plays cricket with Tom at the Hallora Cricket Club, approached Tom at cricket one evening and asked him if he had any farm work available. Tom welcomed Jacob’s enthusiasm and initiative and offered him work on the farm over the summer school holidays and then on Sundays when school recommenced. “Taking on a trainee has made me a better farmer. It makes me reflect on my own farm practices and communication style when teaching Jacob,” Tom said.

After Tom and Jacob had worked together for a period of time, both parties decided it was a good fit for Jacob to commence his traineeship. The Head Start Coordinator from Drouin Secondary College, Jacob and his father, and Tom and Anne Kent met to discuss available options.

Tom and Jacob both found the sign up process simple and straight forward, with the Head Start Coordinators organising all of the paperwork and traineeship enrolment. Following commencement of the traineeship, the Head Start Coordinators support the program by keeping in touch with the student, employer, school and TAFE from beginning to end.

Taking on a trainee is a big commitment. “Traits I look for when taking on a trainee are someone who demonstrates initiative and commitment, shows good stockmanship and has an affinity with cows,” Tom said. “The extra supervision required at the beginning of Jacob’s traineeship did take up more time however it is worth the investment as the benefits pay off.”

“Before taking on a trainee I recommend working with the person for a while first to make sure it’s a good fit personally and for the business,” Tom said.

Jacob juggled schoolwork and the traineeship requirements without issues, thanks to support from school. “The subject load at school is significantly reduced when doing a traineeship and I also had a couple of free periods a week at school to catch up if I needed to,” Jacob said.

Jacob’s advice to anyone thinking about a school based traineeship is simple. “Give it a go! You can always go back to school full time if you find that a traineeship is not for you so it’s worth a try.”

“The aspects I enjoy most about working on a dairy farm is being outside, not being stuck in a classroom or office job and looking after animals which I love,” Jacob said. “The characteristics I find most helpful in my employer are Tom’s supportiveness, calm nature and sense of humour.”

For enquiries about traineeships, contact your Head Start Coordinator at your high school and visit education.vic.gove.au or contact Sarah Cornell at GippsDairy on 0437 400 316.

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