What is it like to be a mature age student doing an apprenticeship? Panorama asked Steven Fitzgerald and Heidi Chan of Prestige Packing at Harris Park about their on-site studies with the Academy of Workplace Learning.
Apprenticeships aren’t just for kids: Steve and Heidi have been hard at work doing a Certificate III in Warehouse Operations, a nationally recognised qualification, since June 2015. Completing this apprenticeship will help them in the search for open employment and equip them with the skills they need.
So why did they start doing this course?
“I wanted to get a qualification,” Steve said. “Accomplishing something like that appealed to me. Getting into an open employment role for higher pay would be good, too!”
“I’d like to have a qualification as well.” Heidi agreed.
What does it involve?
Warehouse Operations III turns warehouse workers into managers and supervisors. While there’s a fair amount of practical hands-on learning involved, the students also learn a lot about administrative duties and other paperwork tasks that any warehouse needs to keep track of in order to operate. The class runs one day a week for three hours per lesson, and is facilitated by Wayne Petersen from the Academy of Workplace Learning. He attends in person each week.
“There’s reading and writing, answering questions, watching videos, identifying hazards in the workplace, doing tests to show what we’ve learned, and a mixture of practical and theory work,” Steve said. “We also do presentations, write speeches about warehousing, and work together for group activities.”
“The course is challenging.” Heidi added. “It’s interesting, it’s very useful, and it makes you think. It’s not boring, but it isn’t too strenuous, either.”
If a worker needs to catch up on a lesson, they may be able to do this at home. When the entire class gets homework, though, this often involves doing some research tasks on the Internet.
Because study times count as working hours, the students are paid to study.
There are requirements you need to meet if you want to graduate. In addition to attending the class itself, the students need to work three standard days (a total of around 22 hours). This has encouraged Steve and Heidi to maintain a good attendance record, as their time at Prestige Packing is having a direct impact on their future goals.
There’s still time!
Many of us have experienced interruptions to our education due to the onset of mental health issues. However, this doesn’t mean that we’ve permanently missed out on attaining our dream jobs. There are plenty of advantages to studying as an adult, too: mature students have a better idea of what they want from life, their priorities are more sensible, and they do a course because THEY want to do it, not because their parents make them.
Heidi and Steve said that the government paid for this course to run, so the students don’t pay a cent. Also, all of the study and safety supplies the students required, including folders, textbooks, hi-visibility vests and work boots were also provided. Being a part of this class doesn’t affect their pension, either.
The current class of 22 was previously run on two separate sites. Seven people from the former West Ryde class joined up with the 15 at Harris Park. Heidi reckons the class got a bit crowded after the move. After all, it more than tripled! Thankfully, Wayne can teach 22 students just as well as 7, and the class is just as good as always.
Do you like scary movies?
Steve mentioned that they had to watch some grim Work Health & Safety movies about how dangerous a warehouse environment can be. Heidi mentioned that after seeing a video about forklift accidents, she’s had second thoughts about her goal of driving one for a living! Although these videos sound unpleasant, warehouses contain many hazards for the uninformed or the distracted, and it’s a terrible idea to just pretend that danger doesn’t exist. On that subject, you may be surprised at one of the number one risks in the workplace…
“We’ve learned that the most dangerous thing in the workplace is hot water,” Heidi taught me.
“Coffee causes so, so many accidents.” Steve agreed.
“I’d consider more study,” Steve said, “but I’ll cross that road when I come to it.”
Has it been a positive experience? “It’s been a good experience, mostly because the teacher is so nice!” Heidi said. “It feels good to hit the books again,” Steve added.
Flourish Australia Prestige Packing Co
23-25 Station Street West,
Harris Park, NSW 2150
(02) 9393 9170