A PILOT program in South Gippsland and Bass Coast for high school students who want to complete an apprenticeship but are also keen to complete their schooling is going ahead in leaps and bounds.

Head Start is a new model for apprenticeships and traineeships for high school students in years 10, 11 and 12 which is being trialled in 10 clusters across the state – including at four local schools.

Participating students spend more time completing paid, on-the-job training while completing their senior schooling.

It offers them a tailored pathway, so students finish their schooling while also making significant progress towards a trade qualification.

“It’s perfect for kids who know what they want to do,” said local Head Start coordinator, Tanya Nelson, who is managing 30 students in the program across Wonthaggi, Leongatha, Foster and Korumburra Secondary Colleges.

Dan and Carrie Bruce of Leongatha Kitchens and Bathrooms have taken on two students through the program – Korumburra Secondary College student Dylan Fox and Leongatha Secondary College student Tyson Davies.

Dan spoke highly of the program because, unlike work experience, the kids are actually doing their apprenticeship.

Carrie also praised the program for allowing kids to develop their social skills at school while learning on-the-job.

Tyson will be finishing year 12 with the first year of a cabinet-making apprenticeship under his belt.

“He is 12 months in front than if he hadn’t done the program and he’s passed his probationary period,” Dan said.

Dylan said he loves the program because he still gets to see his mates at school while also earning a wage a few days a week.

It’s a similar situation for most of the other 30 local students taking part in the program – eight of whom have exited school before completing year 12 to go full-time with their employer.

And the rest are all going strong.

“This is incredible for a new program and shows how dedicated our local schools are to finding the best pathways for students,” said Tanya.

“It’s a tailored fit to suit the needs of students and employer.”

And Tanya stays with the kids until they finish their qualification – even if they leave school – to ensure there’s support there if they need it.

The state government started the program after almost 50 per cent of apprenticeships and traineeships fell through in 2018.

“If a student leaves school early – at the end of year 10 or 11 – to undertake a full-time apprenticeship and it falls over, they are disconnected from school and more likely to end up on welfare benefits,” Tanya said.

“With no school qualification and a failed job behind them, they find themselves in a job market they struggle to compete in.

“The government’s vision is to turn this statistic around by vastly improving the school-based apprenticeship model and gauge what difference it has made to the completion rates when the pilot period ends in 2022.”

Tanya also praised the support from TAFE Gippsland, as well as all the employers who have taken part in the program.