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Motion: Guaranteeing Futures Program

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I can say ditto to everything that has been said by the member for Apsley. Guaranteeing Futures was established through legislation in 2004-05 as part of the Pathways and Participation framework to improve post compulsory education, training and employment opportunities for young people in Tasmania. The original focus was years 8 to 10, but the direction changed in 2011 to actively support years 10 to 11, to understand the importance of year 12 completion or the equivalent qualifications. What has changed?

I have also read some Hansard from 2009, as read by the member for Apsley, and from the honourable Jeremy Rockliff. I also have some comments by the late honourable Sue Napier, who said:

The decision to disband the pathway planning and Guaranteeing Futures programs, particularly the people who deliver it, with absolutely no consultation with principals, demonstrates how the Premier has completely lost touch with what is going on in our state high schools.

While the Premier continues to try to kill off suggestions that the programs will not be axed, some schools are being told they will have to get the money from their own individual budgets to ensure that they deliver the mandated program.

The point that is being missed here is that we already have concerns about the level of absenteeism in our high schools. What is it going to be like if we do not have these pathway planning officers operating in the schools to help those disengaged students to ensure that more students are tapping into school-based vocational education opportunities, to help more students achieve individualised option programs that some of our high schools are now successfully running ...

So what has changed since 2009? There has been change, but we still have the pathway planners, we still have the Guaranteeing Futures. Do we want to lose it? Can we afford to lose it is the question.

Guaranteeing Futures provides an holistic approach to higher education and future employment for students. Students living in our modern society of rapidly changing labour markets and changing employment opportunities need all the help they can get, and the combination of a career programs coordinator, pathway planners and youth learning officers seems to be a very successful and efficient way of providing this help.

Why is it that when something seems to work we get rid of it? We find it happens again and again. It is the same when you go to the supermarket. You buy something that is wonderful, you go back and it is gone. It seems if something is successful we cannot continue to go down that path, we have to get rid of it. It is mind boggling to me.

Without this program we may achieve a short-term gain, but ultimately we are likely to see a costly and difficult remedy to long-term pain. This program can quickly and effectively identify students who may fall through the cracks, and provides the support and focused advice or assistance needed so they can lessen the chance of ending up with a life without focus or meaning. It helps students who are disengaged, or at risk of becoming disengaged, to become re-engaged. It has the potential to lessen the number of students who are marginalised in the community and who do not transition to further education or training and, ultimately, employment.

We already have the highest unemployment rate. Surely one of the things we should be doing is trying to assist our young students to get employment, to change that cycle of three generations of unemployed. Let us help them to find employment.

Students with multiple barriers to engagement, such as those suffering social anxiety, and those with a developmental and intellectual disability, will be the most negatively disadvantaged by the loss of this program. I would like to put on the record two quotes from a letter to the Premier and minister for Education, authored by a youth transition officer, regarding Guaranteeing Futures. It says:

The Auditor-General, in a recent report on Tasmania's education system, praised the work done by Guaranteeing Futures and the effect we have had on both transition and retention. His report also corrected the misconception that Tasmania compares poorly to mainland states in regard to retention to the end of year 12, by pointing out that when all eligible post-year 10 destinations are taken into account, not just the colleges, Tasmania actually does better than the mainland median performance. This is thanks, in no small part, to the specialist services provided by Guaranteeing Futures.

To ask teachers who are already overworked and time-poor, who in some cases have been given teaching positions that do not relate to their specific training specialty -

We have heard previously that we often have teachers who might be specialty PE teachers who are teaching science.

[For these teachers] to undertake yet another role that they are likely to have little or no interest or training in, cannot replace the work done by a team of committed and experienced specialist professionals all of whom are passionate about what they do.

We know teachers are passionate about what they do, but do they have the time? They are so committed now. How are they going to find the time to put in?

Pathway planners - what do they do? They provide one-on-one assistance and guidance and support. They assist students to transition from high school to college more easily. They also provide the tools, advice and support that can assist students with their college course selection so that it plays on the individual's aspirations and capability and also enables a focus on a future career pathway.

This approach often maximises the potential for the students to remain engaged in learning until the end of year 12. The planners are dedicated, they are informed, and they are available to students. They provide vital support that encompasses the individual student's development, their transitional needs and their personal aspirations. They also set up work experience. Students and future employers both benefit greatly from the availability of work experience programs. We all know of students who, because of work experience, have gained employment.

How many students have someone who can give them a reference for work? There are many who cannot. Mum and dad might be unemployed, or they might not. These students may not have done any work experience they can put on an application. That makes the world of difference to someone an employer is looking to employ. Many times a student will go into a workplace, work out well, and be offered employment. That is a very important part of this program.

I will read part of a letter from one of the students who visited us when the committee met and discussed with the students the issue of the pathway planners. This is from a young chap, Joshua Barr, a prefect at New Town High School. He mentioned that his pathway planner has put at least 15 hours into helping him each week. He said:

Any question I have at all, I just have to ask him. On the odd chance that he does not know, he will research it and get back to me with the answer. One of the main things we would be losing if the Government replaces pathway planners with My Education is the one-on-one support that they provide. As I said, at least 15 hours of his time he has given up to help me. You may be thinking - well, so what, that is what he is paid for, but I would say that about a quarter of that 15 hours has been after or before school or even late at night or the weekend. He is choosing to give us his personal family time to help me, unpaid, and that is just me alone. Imagine all the other emails he gets from the other 200-odd grade 10 students at my school. That is how dedicated he is and how much he cares about us. We email him because for us he is our fountain of knowledge regarding our futures. He is a friendly face to go to and to talk to about our problems, chat with or answer any queries we may have.

A computer cannot replace what he can give us. It does not show compassion or care for the students in the way that he does and it does not have the industry connections that he has to make setting up work experience easier. A computer program does not get to know the student and therefore cannot help provide tailored individual career and life advice that is best suited to the individual.

In the time I have been campaigning to save pathway planners, my pathway planner and I have been spending even more time together and we have developed a stronger relationship and a sincere respect for each other. In doing all this campaigning I have met with other pathway planners from most of the major public high schools in southern Tasmania … and realised the bond they have with their students is not unlike the one I share with my pathway planner.

I have now seen the impressive body of work they all put in as a collective and it is stunning. Around 250 combined years of working with youth and for that experience not to be used in their current positions in conjunction with the implementation of My Education is absurd. Their skills will not be used to their full extent and where they are needed most, and that is helping students transition from high school to college successfully and smoothly and give life advice and teach the students about life in the adult world.

I believe the relationship I and many of my peers have made with our pathway planner is extremely different to those with teachers. Having a dedicated, informed and available person at my school whom I can go to whenever I need is vital to my development, transitional needs and personal aspirations.

There are multiple people that I can think of who are in grade 9, my sister included, who are extremely worried about how their grade 10 year will turn out without pathway planners. I know she has already been talking to her pathway planner about her future to get a head start, now she knows he may not be there next year to help her the way he has this year, or the way my pathway planner has with me this year. This is what I do not want to happen. I do not want her and the rest of her year group to miss out on the amazing opportunity that is pathway planners.

This matter is worrying to all young Tasmanians and needs to be addressed.

Joshua Barr does not want other students to miss out on what he has had, that has been extremely helpful to him.

Pathway planners identify, develop and promote careers for year 10 students, based on skill shortage areas, emerging industries and vocational opportunities. They liaise with education and training providers, peak industry bodies and relevant government and not-for-profit agencies to provide tailored programs that enhance student knowledge and outcomes. What more can we say.

I am concerned that those students who are disengaged are at further risk of disengagement. They have the potential to become even more marginalised in the community and not transition to further education or training as the current support structure will no longer be offered. I ask the Government to go back to 2009 and read the comments of its own members in Hansard . They are just as pertinent now as they were then.

Read the contributions of the now Minister for Education and Training, and the late Mrs Napier. Many words of wisdom were said at that time. I support the motion put by the member for Apsley.

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