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Wollondilly Skills Ready Program a Success

22 February 2023

After the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, a program to help support aspiring young professionals in the Wollondilly Shire was developed.   

The Skills Ready program was launched in mid-2021 as a partnership between My Gateway and Wollondilly Shire Council. Funded through Stage Two of the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, the program aimed to provide local residents of the shire with traineeships and cadetships. This was seen as a positive boost to the community which had experienced a lot of recent hardship.  

The one-year program also added to the long-standing partnership between My Gateway and Wollondilly Shire Council. This collaboration can be traced back to My Gateway’s inception in 1982 and continues to thrive today, with multiple apprentices also currently undertaking placement with Council.  

Council’s Director of Shire Connections, Caroline Argent, said the partnership is key to providing local youth with the right job pathways. 

“The trainee, apprentice and cadetship programs are important and valued programs at Wollondilly Shire Council. The programs enable Council to provide opportunities to school leavers, mature aged students and university graduates to experience a workplace within their chosen field of study.”

Image: Program participants, Declan Ryan and Lochlan Fraser. Photo credit: My Gateway. 

Mentoring guides young employees in the workplace 

A unique aspect of the Skills Ready program are the tailored monthly mentoring sessions. These sessions covered a wide variety of topics, to help the participants gain confidence and skills in a professional environment.  

Madi McKinley is one of the participants who undertook a cadetship as part of the  program. She was in the final year of her Bachelor of Communications when she commenced at Council in February, 2022, working in the Sustainable Growth department. 

“At first I was a little bit unsure as to how my degree would fit in with the work since they felt like two very foreign things,” Madi said.  

“But I think what I’ve enjoyed most is being able to learn so much. I’ve been exposed to the planning world, which I had no idea about.”  

Madi has been tasked with using her communications skills to assist her team, breaking down what can be complex language into more layman’s terms. It’s a role she has enjoyed and embraced.  

“I’ve actually been able to take what I’ve learnt in my degree and apply it. Especially breaking down language and some of the creative things I’ve been able to do,” Madi said.  

Program builds confidence

Madi has found the mentoring to be very beneficial, as has one of her fellow participants, Declan Ryan. Declan works in the Development Engineering department and has just completed his degree in civil engineering. His cadetship and specifically, the mentoring has allowed him to gain confidence in asking questions and improve his time management skills.  

“They’ve been excellent,” Declan said of the mentoring sessions.  

“Kirryn’s been really good in mentoring us on how to work better in the workplace, how we can manage our time better. And also how we can seek help when we need it.”  

Juggling work and the final year of university has had its challenges for Declan. However, he has maintained a strong focus and positive attitude over the past year to overcome any issues faced.  

“It’s been difficult at times, in terms of finding time do work here and knowing I have something due [for university],” he explained. 

“But that’s just part of it. I could have had that in any job, anywhere. So I may as well get the experience while I can and have that support.” 

Invaluable experience

Lochlan Fraser is another one of the program’s participants. He commenced with Council towards the end of 2021 in one of the traineeship roles.  

He started with the Council depot and then moved over to the Development Engineering department with Declan. Lochlan has enjoyed working across both teams as he completed his Certificate IV in Business.  

“The depot was fun because it was always changing,” he said.  

“It was different jobs day-to-day and moving around the shire. It’s a big shire so every job wasn’t the same.”  

“With the Development Engineering department, what I like the most is I don’t know any of it. It’s very exciting to learn another aspect of what Council do.”  

The mentoring component of the program has been invaluable for Lochlan, who has uncovered strengths about himself he didn’t know existed.  

“I think the sessions helped me to realise I had a bit more skill within myself that I didn’t think I had.”   

Image: The program graduation was held in January 2023. 

Next steps for cadets and trainees 

The Skills Ready program participants were celebrated at a recent graduation ceremony at Council. Some of the participants have secured full-time roles with Council while the others are exploring other employment and study opportunities now that they have completed the program.

My Gateway Senior Field Rep, Kirryn Scicluna, delivered the mentoring sessions and witnessed incredible growth from each of the young professionals. 

“Seeing these individuals starting their first corporate positions and being reserved and quiet over the initial weeks to then stepping out of their comfort zone and working on key projects within their teams has been fantastic to see,” said Kirryn.

“I believe their time at Council has been successful in creating young business professionals who understand the importance of learning and now have thirst for becoming leaders for future trainees to follow.”

Main image: Skills Ready cadet, Madi McKinley. Photo credit: My Gateway.