Wayne Petersen

Flourish Australia has been bringing in external teachers to help our workers earn real qualifications in the hopes of providing a better tomorrow. WAYNE PETERSEN, founder of the Academy of Workplace Learning, spoke about these classes.

Which Flourish Australia locations have you taught at so far?

I’ve been training workers at the West Ryde, Harris Park and Marrickville branches since May 2015. A total of 47 people started the Warehouse Operations Certificate III course, but these traineeships take two years so none of them have completed it yet. Before this I used to teach a Certificate IV in Mental Health (non-clinical) to Flourish Australia peer workers.

Historically, how is the graduation rate of your students?

I’ve helped students to complete 400 traineeships over the last decade, and we are very proud of our 100% graduation rate. Our figures are so high because of the extensive work we put into designing our training material and by ensuring that all our potential students have the competency required to graduate. We also spend three face-to-face hours with our participants each week to be sure that they understand (and complete) their assessments. Note that our graduation figures don’t include any participants who leave the organisation or become sick and are unable to complete it (around 15%).

Have you worked with many other non-government organisations?

I have run classes for organisations such as New Horizons, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, The Intellectual Disability Foundation of St George, Ozanam Industries, Centacare, DSA, Castlereagh Industries, Civic Industries, Multitask, Catholic Care and Thorndale Industries, and we have successfully completed two rounds of traineeships with the House With No Steps.

Are your graduates moving onto bigger and better things?

One success story involves a class from The House With No Steps. We ran traineeships for ten participants at their Minchinbury Packaging ADE. From this class, six participants gained the skills, qualifications and confidence to find open employment elsewhere. Of the remaining four students, one became a forklift driver, two were promoted to supervisors, and the final member of the class was happy to just keep doing his original job.

Are mature age students easier to teach than younger students?

There’s a big difference between childhood learning and adult learning, as adults will only learn what they’re interested in. This means I have to make the training engaging, exciting and enjoyable to ensure the class doesn’t zone out. Thankfully, feedback tells us we are hitting our targets. It’s nice to know I’m not putting anybody to sleep!

The Academy’s core mission is to train people from the disability and mental health sectors. Any particular reason for this?

My personal history plays a big part in this. For starters, my Poppy had an acquired brain injury, and my mum always taught us to love people who were different and to not be scared of them. Also, my younger brother had autism, and I was his primary carer for most of his life. In addition to that, my wife Lorraine and I have a 39-year-old son who lives with schizophrenia. I also managed to recover from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing trauma as a child.

What process do you have to go through in running a course at one of Flourish Australia’s community businesses?

First, somebody from the Academy will talk with the manager about the suitability of running one of our courses. From there we need to know if the employees have any interest in taking part, so the supervisors will speak with them to check. After that we’ll present an information session and provide Expression of Interest (EOI) paperwork to anyone who wants to take part. Finally, we’ll assess the language and literacy skills of all our potential students to ensure they are competent enough to complete the traineeship.

Who pays the teacher?

The federal government has incentivised Flourish Australia with wage support for this purpose. So long as a student remains an employee of Flourish Australia during their training, then the organisation will continue to receive enough government funding to cover all costs. The students and the organisation are not out of pocket for the training; in fact, the organisation will often achieve a healthy profit from the training. On that subject, we believe that our classes will be funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme when it rolls out.

What are your future plans?

We have expanded our scope to offer more course options, such as a Certificate I in Vocational Pathways, a bridging course that would be very useful for anybody who needs to build on some basic skills before tackling a more advanced certificate. We’ve also been putting together courses for traineeships for Flourish Australia peer workers that operate with a similar funding method as the current traineeships.

Interested in taking a big step towards your dreams? See your manager about contacting the Academy of Workplace Learning!

1300 189 417


“NSW TAFE program aims to reduce high apprenticeship dropout rate,” by Mohamed Taha and Allan Clarke, 8th of July 2014

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