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Young people find better futures with Centacare’s award-winning project


Centacare Executive Director, Lee-Anne Phillips, and Minister for Community Services, Hon Tony Simpson MLA. Photo: Supplied

By Caroline Smith

After only two years since its introduction, an engagement and intervention program in Perth’s south-eastern suburbs has yielded success for Centacare Employment and Training (Centacare) and the young people who are involved.

Project Stepping Stones began in April 2013 as a joint initiative of Centacare, the Department of Education WA and Police and Community Youth Centre (PCYC) Gosnells, aiming to support young people between the ages of 15 and 18 by assisting them with skills for education and future goals.

Operating for ten weeks, four times a year, Project Stepping Stones invites participants to take part in a range of activities to boost life skills (such as driving instruction and cooking), as well as gaining support to plan for career and work.

Ultimately, the project allows people to undertake up to 800 hours of language, literacy and numeracy training, plus units in various levels of the Certificate for General Education or transition into other Certificate courses, preparatory trade courses, TAFE or employment.

The project was conceived, in part, as a response to high youth crime rates across WA and in Perth’s south-eastern region, in particular.

In May this year, Project Stepping Stones was acknowledged at the Community Service Excellence Awards, winning the ‘Partnership’ award for Centacare, Gosnells PCYC and the Department of Education WA.

Centacare Employment and Training Executive Director, Lee-Anne Phillips, said she felt humbled by the award.

“It is such a rare privilege to showcase what we do and the small miracles that we bear witness to every day, but also to be fortunate enough to be in a position to publicly acknowledge Project Stepping Stones and what it brings to the community,” she said.

Ms Philips said changes in participants’ lives – big and small – were the real measures of the project’s success.

“Some of the major success of the program include student engagement, real jobs, and the outcomes that you cannot measure,” she said.

“For example, a student took their beanie off for the first time, another interacted with his class mates: just to turn up every day for some of them is a huge achievement.

“Significantly increased levels of self-esteem, confidence, positive behaviour and overall mental health and well-being amongst participants are just some of the benefits.”

Students also achieved a number of education and career goals along the way - including their Initial Certificate in Education for Adults progressing towards Certificate I, completion of the Silver Trowel Program for trades that transitions to TAFE, Certificate I in Automotive Vocational Preparation which transitions to TAFE, and permanent employment.

Five participants were selected to transition to the ‘Drive to the Future’ program, enabling them to obtain their full driving licence and complete the required number of driving hours, and six participants transitioned into PCYC’s ‘Full Throttle’ Program as volunteers and then as mentors.

Ms Philips said Project Stepping Stones would continue to build on these successes, with similar initiatives planned in other regions of Perth.

“We are currently piloting a similar program in the city with young people who are disengaged from education or training,” she said.

“The amazing part about this program is that it’s flexible, and we have teachers who can adapt it.”