It’s the conundrum that faces many Year 12 graduates: okay, what now?
From their first day at pre-school to sitting their final HSC exam, students have been in the business of learning, preparing themselves for that moment when an unknown path stretches before them.
To university? Get a job? Travel the world (we can at least scrap that option for the time being)? Learn a trade? And while mulling these over there are other things pulling our graduates from one side to the other: family, friends, and place to name just a few.
To call this a crossroads in life is an understatement!
For some people, like Dillon Aldridge, it was the pull of family and place that first guided him in the direction of a two-year Water and Sewerage Services traineeship with Bega Valley Shire Council back in 2011.
“I finished Year 12 and this just came up at the right time,” he said, talking from the operations centre at the Merimbula Sewage Treatment Plant. “I didn’t really have a clear goal of what I wanted to do at the time so I decided to apply for the traineeship.”
It’s a common theme for school leavers in this neck of the woods. Strong ties with family and close-knit communities who call the beautiful Sapphire Coast their home is reason enough to make anyone stay put.
“I didn’t really want to leave my family; we’re all pretty close. I enjoyed staying close to the community and giving back where I can.”
Aldridge says the traineeship skilled him up both on the job and in the classroom as he studied for his Certificate Three in Water and Sewerage Operations.
“I didn’t have any experience in plumbing and I was fresh out of school, but the guys were really good and they made me feel like a valued team member right from the start.
“Starting out was a little bit daunting, a lot to take in, and to be honest I’m still learning the system. You never stop learning in this job.”
“I’m really glad that I stuck with it because I’ve learnt a lot and now I’m an experienced team member and studying for my Certificate Four.”
Mindful of the lack of opportunities for young people that often goes hand-in-hand with living in regional communities, the now Acting Team Leader is thankful for the chance to forge a career in his hometown.
“The traineeship was a great opportunity to learn and Council looked after me the whole time. They put me through all due processes and certifications I needed while teaching on the job along the way. For young people it’s a great leg up to getting a career locally. It’s good to have it close to home.”
Council’s Assets and Operations Director, Anthony McMahon says the traineeship program works well for school leavers, but also for local business and industry.
“We’re introducing a regular flow of skilled, willing and qualified workers into the local business community,” he said.
“While it’s known that regional living provides limited opportunities for young people, we often forget to mention the other problem of skills shortages in local industries.
“We train school leavers up as trainees, cadets and apprentices. Some, like Dillon Aldridge, stay and forge successful careers with Council, and others take their skills and use them locally.
“An investment in a trainee is an investment in our community on many levels, and we’re really happy to be offering another round of traineeships this year in the Water and Sewerage Services area.
“We’ll be advertising for up to five traineeship positions and one electrical apprenticeship this month. If, like Dillon, you are a school leaver or young person unsure of which direction your career will take, we encourage you to consider this as a great chance to live and work locally.
“The role is challenging, but you will be supported by a great team with lots of experience.”
Aldridge, now with ten years’ experience under his belt, hopes to pass on some of what he’s learned in his time as a trainee and full-time team member.
“I’d like to think that I would be able to help in that area. I’ve been through the traineeship myself and I’m still fairly young, so I feel like I would be able to relate a bit with school leavers just starting out.
“There’s so much to this job, and with the right training you get to experience a wide range of tasks and responsibilities, from installing new water mains to repairing broken ones in the middle of the night.
“There’s a good feeling you get when you know the work you are doing is for the people in the community.
“It’s great to be giving the environment a little help too. At the moment we’re reusing biosolids for farming purposes and irrigating the golf course and a local farm with recycled water. It’s good to see that it’s not just wasted.
“I took this opportunity 10 years ago now, and I haven’t looked back since.”
The latest round of traineeships will be advertised on Council’s website.
If you would like more information about Council’s workplace training programs, visit the Careers at Council webpage.