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Community Programs

VERTO offers a number of community programs that focus on assisting and supporting disadvantaged individuals with their search for employment and managing daily life issues.
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Indigenous Services

Tenants' Advice and Advocacy

Tenants' Advice and Advocacy

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Disability Services

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VERTO will help young parents return to work after securing ParentsNext contract

VERTO will help young parents return to work after securing ParentsNext contract

April 18, 2018

VERTO has been selected to provide ParentsNext services from 2018-2021 in New South Wales, including the Central West and North Coast. ParentsNext is a government program that helps parents with young children, to plan and prepare for their future employment or study.

Commenting on the contract selection VERTO Chief Executive Officer, Ron Maxwell, said “We are proud to provide employment opportunities to communities within New South Wales.  ParentsNext allows us to expand on the support we provide individuals to develop new skills and find work,” continued Maxwell.

The ParentsNext contract represents growth for VERTO, as it will be providing a new, much needed service to parents in need.

The program is expected to help around 68,000 parents across Australia, to plan and prepare for employment by the time their children are at school. It involves helping parents of young children to identify their current skills and how these skills are transferrable to the workplace.

“Caring for young children can mean that parents have spent long periods of time out of the paid workforce. Getting back into work can be difficult, but this service aims to ease parents back into work and support them throughout the process,” Mr Maxwell said.

The ParentsNext program (effective from 1 July 2018) will deliver tailored assistance, through identifying education and employment goals, matching them with activities to prepare them to re-enter the workforce, and providing access to suitable referral services within the community to support them throughout their journey.

Strong mentoring programs can help our apprentices achieve more

Strong mentoring programs can help our apprentices achieve more

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

Mentoring programs offer newcomers to an industry the support of someone experienced who can offer a sounding board, show them the ropes and act as a conduit between them and the employer. Typically, the concept has been associated with startups and tech firms, but it has started to gain momentum in the apprenticeship world.

In my opinion, this is something we need to encourage further. As many industries face skill shortages, and apprentice numbers decline, programs that provide additional support and encourage apprentices to stick with it can only be a good thing.

Completion rates can be lifted

According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) almost half of apprenticeship contracts in our trades are not completed. And in the same research, NCVER found that one of the key reasons for failing to complete a contract is interpersonal difficulties with employers or colleagues.

Many employers who take on apprentices are small businesses, who don’t have the back office or HR staff to help them engage their employees. Think about the self-employed builder, for example. The business might be just them and a couple of apprentices, so if an issue or challenge for the apprentice arises, they may not have the resources or the time to dedicate to working through the problem. In situations like this, a mentoring program really comes into its own and can be the difference between the apprentice quitting or staying on to become qualified.

When you add to this the fact that apprentices are often young people making the significant transition from a school environment to the workforce, providing advice and support at this critical time really makes sense. This support can play a vital role all the way through the apprenticeship. In fact, we know there are various stages throughout an apprenticeship where the risk of dropping out is at its greatest.

The first of these is at the very beginning, where a negative experience can see the apprentice reconsider their decision. Mentoring during this time really helps them to integrate into the workforce. Many apprentices are minors when they commence, so another high-risk period can occur when they turn eighteen. This is a key milestone and a time when peers can have significant influence, so a mentor can really help keep them on track.

Another time when we see dropouts escalate is during the third year. Fatigue can set in, and with another year still to go, it can seem like another mountain to climb. At VERTO, our completion rate sits about the industry average and, I believe, our mentoring program plays a significant role in this.

The impact goes beyond the workplace

Mentoring can really help in all aspects of an apprentice’s life, as they make decisions that impact their whole lives. More time than I can count, we have had apprentices who have come to us on the verge of packing in their apprenticeship and putting their future at risk, both professionally and personally, and working with a mentor has really brought them back from the edge.

It’s great for diversity too

Mentoring has proven benefits when it comes to supporting diversity too. I’ve talked before about how important it is that encourage more women into apprenticeships and traditional trades, and mentoring is one way we can increase participation and retention. VERTO recently worked with a young Indigenous woman who is studying to be a light vehicle mechanic. Her employer has organised for her to be mentored by another female mechanic, who can not only help her with skill development, but provide career advice, and share her own experiences of working as a woman in a male-dominated industry.

We are seeing mentoring play an increasingly critical role in diversity across many industries. Just one example of this is Alcoa of Australia, who this week reached 10% female participation at their Pinjarra Alumina Refinery, in a workforce that has long been almost exclusively male.

Mentoring is also a successful way to attract and retain Indigenous employees.   Indigenous Australians can face additional personal, cultural and social challenges when it comes to workforce participation and having an Indigenous mentor in their chosen industry can greatly improve outcomes.

Funding is needed for supply to meet demand

Both apprentices and their employers are realising the benefits of mentoring, however, demand is far outstripping supply. Mentoring programs under the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) receive some government funding, however, there are simply not enough places. The federal government recently launched the fantastic Industry Specific Mentoring for Australian Apprentices program, which will open up more places, but with government funding cuts to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, there’s more that can be done.

Mentoring is a great thing and we need to see more of it for our apprentices, but it can’t stand alone in building the skills they need to excel in their chosen industries. These programs need to sit alongside a strong, healthy VET sector so that we are providing our apprentices with the best possible chance of success from the very beginning.

Why a local approach is key to reversing population decline in Regional Australia

Why a local approach is key to reversing population decline in Regional Australia

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

It’s well documented that many of Australia’s regional areas are being left behind, suffering significant population decline as more and more people migrate to metropolitan areas in search of work.

There is an abundance of government programs and initiatives out there designed to stimulate job growth, but are we doing enough? In a recent episode of ABC’s Q&A, John Daley, Chief Executive of the Grattan Institute said “We have 117 years of official policy to (create jobs in regional Australia), and so far, 117 years of failure.”

An effective solution isn’t just about short-term job creation; we need to stabilise, or even grow, local populations. And regional population growth doesn’t only benefit the local area, it is beneficial to the whole economy. The Regional Australia Institute recently reported that for every 100,000 people that choose regional areas over big cities, $50 billion is injected into our economy as a result of reduced congestion and mortgage costs.

Building communities from within works

The key to growing local population is to create jobs that give existing locals a reason to stay, and encourage people to move to an area – but just how do we do this? There are many schools of thought on this, but for me, it’s about a local first approach.

Population decline is cyclical. Each generation that leaves to find work, only accelerates the exodus of the next, as opportunities become scarcer and scarcer. Building a community from within doesn’t just create jobs, it empowers locals and gives the community a sense of identity. This success will both inspire the next generation and give them the job opportunities they need to stay and build a local career.

On the whole, government initiatives haven’t proven successful over the long-term and many communities are taking matters into their own hands. In the Riverina district of New South Wales, local councils and residents have worked together to reverse the decline, through local innovation and entrepreneurship in a wide range of areas.

This approach is supported by the research too. A recent report by the Regional Australia Institute has found that supporting and growing local entrepreneurship is a key strategy to increase employment opportunities. And in general, Australians will support local initiatives over big business, with nine out of ten saying that they will buy locally made goods over cheaper imports.

There’s a place for big industry too

Many of the industries that built our regional areas are in decline, such as manufacturing and mining, but there are a number of growing industries that could look to our regional areas too.

An obvious one is renewable energy - regional Australia offers an abundance of flat land and sunshine. In fact, Dubbo has the highest capacity to produce energy through solar power of anywhere in Australia.

But there are other big businesses in a range of industries who are taking advantage of the opportunities regional Australia has to offer – such as Fantastic Furniture, who have a warehouse at Young in New South Wales. Companies like Fantastic are realising the benefits – reduced costs, cheaper land and access to a ready, willing and available workforce.

Governments must play a role

Government support is integral to finding a long-term solution to regional decline – it’s just about where the money is spent. Programs such as the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa that increases population and builds skills within regional communities, are great. What we need now is the other side of the coin – stimulus to build local economies from within and reduce the high unemployment rates that plague many of our regional areas.

The key to this lies in finding ways to encourage and grow local entrepreneurship. There are already some great initiatives in this space, such as the Start Up Incubator in Bathurst, that has received an injection of funds from the New South Wales State Government. More than 20% of start ups already originate in our regional areas, imagine how this could grow with the right funding and support from state and federal governments.

Another key area is investing in the infrastructure that will bring both short-term jobs and encourage larger businesses to consider the benefits of our regional areas. Many of our smaller cities, such as Orange in Central West New South Wales have the right mix of existing industry, community service networks, and available land that make them ripe for investment.

With plenty of land for both housing and industry at a relatively low cost, a willing workforce, and communities with a strong sense of identity, regional Australia has much to offer born and bred locals, skilled migrants, and tree-change urbanites seeking to escape the congestion of our cities. If we can fund and support local start ups and encourage bigger businesses to realise these benefits, it won’t be hard to reverse population decline.

Government funding cuts will only make the skills shortage worse

Government funding cuts will only make the skills shortage worse

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

The value of education in a rapidly changing world is widely recognised in Australia, and expenditure at all levels of our education system has increased – with the exception of Vocational Education and Training (VET). Funding for the sector has been on the decline over the past 15 years, at both a state and federal level. In New South Wales alone, funding has been cut by a startling 25 per cent.

The VET sector has always been impacted by electoral cycles and typically isn’t one that garners a lot of public interest. It’s been said that there are ‘no votes in VET’ and this has only been exacerbated by media interest in the small number of unscrupulous providers who misused funds in the VET FEE HELP scandal.

There is no denying that governments needed to respond, but, in my opinion, funding cuts aren’t the answer. In fact, they could prove to be the opposite – with the potential to significantly impact our regional communities, industries and economy.

A resilient economy needs a healthy VET sector

A healthy VET sector plays a key role in economic development. In fact, at last year’s G20 Summit, this was acknowledged on an international level, with the summit recognising the VET sector’s role in building resilient economies and encouraging young people into the labour market.

I’ve talked many times about the skills shortage and this will only continue to grow. Recent research suggests that the next five years will see the creation of around a million new jobs that Australia won’t have the skills to fill and around half of these will require a VET qualification. In fact, a majority of jobs in our key growth sectors, such as childcare, healthcare and construction, depend on VET qualifications.

The needs of our workforce are rapidly evolving as we hurtle towards a technology-driven future and VET is well-positioned to not only develop the skills of future generations, but also upskill and reskill today’s workforce. The sector needs to innovate more than ever before to meet these demands, and while funding cuts can, in theory, play a role in driving innovation, the reality is often the opposite. Funding cuts can drive organisations to find creative ways to reduce costs, and this can often lead to stagnation or a decline in quality.

Australia’s rapidly declining apprenticeship numbers are already a huge concern, and these funding cuts hit at the heart of this. Cuts have been made to the employer incentives scheme,which encourages businesses to take on apprentices, and this has the potential to see numbers spiral further downward.

Barriers have been raised

Funding has been stripped from student loans, but has not been redistributed, essentially creating a user pays system. While, theoretically, this system may seem like an effective response to misuse of funds, what it is actually doing is creating barriers for those who stand to lose the most.

VET qualifications have long offered a pathway for disadvantaged youth to enter the workforce, but a recent report has detailed how the Smart and Skilled reforms in New South Wales have raised the barriers so high that many no longer have access.

This challenge is only heightened in our regional communities. A lack of jobs is already leading to rising youth unemployment and the exodus of many young people to metropolitan areas in search of work. Our regional communities are dying, and, in my opinion, putting up further financial barriers to vocational education is only going to accelerate this decline.

Planning and implementation are key

There is no denying the VET sector needs to change in the wake of the VET FEE HELP scandal, and a user pays system is not necessarily the wrong move.   But, in my opinion, the way it has been implemented has created significant challenges for everyone involved.

The VET sector has long been heavily subsidised, and this, coupled with the widely held misconception that a VET qualification is not worth as much as a university degree, means society has placed a much lower value on these courses. Pulling the funding so sharply and quickly is not aligned with community expectations, and will only see a further decline in enrolment numbers, leading to a lack of skilled workers.

The solution, in my opinion, lies in governments and policy-makers having the fortitude to take a long-term view of the sector, implement funding changes over a longer period, and really consider the needs of regional Australia (which is where the impacts will be felt the most).

If we can get this right today, then there is an enormous opportunity for VET to lead Australia into a stronger future.

What our
clients say . . .

  • "Our local VERTO group of consultants have been in the business for many years now and have a very strong knowledge of the requirements of our apprentices and trainees. The team are always available to answer any questions that may arise, making their customer service excellent. It is with their commitment and dedication that we as a large company are able to achieve an above average completion rate for our apprentices and trainees."

    Mark Smith, Director - Masterfoods
  • "Our local VERTO group of consultants have been in the business for many years now and have a very strong knowledge of the requirements of our apprentices and trainees. The team are always available to answer any questions that may arise, making their customer service excellent. It is with their commitment and dedication that we as a large company are able to achieve an above average completion rate for our apprentices and trainees."

    Mark Smith, Director - Masterfoods

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