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Here are a few of our successful SPARK graduates and their stories.

Vicki-Ann Middlemis-BCS Childcare Program

From a young age, Vicki-Ann Middlemis had always wanted to work in childcare, but found it was never the right time, so she turned to cooking instead.

Her first job was in a café, where she worked for five years as a chef, before briefly becoming a nanny. Following the birth of her first child, Vicki chose to become a stay-at-home mum, where she remained caring for her three children for a number of years.

As her children grew, Vicki was needed less and less at home, prompting her decision to return to the workforce. She began working in another café, but her heart wasn’t in it and the job eventually fell through.

After another 18 months out of the workforce, Vicki came across a SPARK leaflet in her letterbox, and finally made the decision to follow her passion. Vicki became a participant in the Belconnen Community Service (BCS) Childcare Program, which ran for 6 months and consisted of both classroom learning and placements within BCS childcare centres. Upon graduation, Vicki received a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care and a Senior First Aid Certificate.

Vicki says she enjoyed the program because of its small group environment and practical learning, which she feels has increased her confidence and helped her grow as a person.

“I didn’t really enjoy school and I never did well in traditional classroom setups, so being able to work in a small group and participate in hands-on tasks has been good for me. I now think about things more deeply than before and have confidence in my abilities”, says Vicki.

After graduating, Vicki was offered a job with BCS in the baby room, alongside other SPARK graduates. Vicki has also had the opportunity to welcome and offer advice to participants of SPARK’s second childcare program, as they begin their training.

Vicki is now looking to further her qualifications with a diploma in childcare.

Thanks to SPARK, Vicki has been able to follow her passion and pursue her dream of working in childcare.

Daniel Jones-Yass Construction Program

Daniel Jones lived in Yass his whole life. In his words, he’s “a Yass boy, born and bred.” He graduated year 12 from Yass High School in 2016 and, out of school, was looking for work. He discovered SPARK through the NSW Youth Pathways Program, and he became a participant in the Yass Construction Program.

Program participants spent 10 weeks constructing upgrades for Zac’s Place, a community centre in Yass. Its graduates walked away with a Certificate II in Construction Pathways, a White Card, and an ACT Asbestos Awareness Ticket.

It came at a good time for Daniel, as he had signed up to be part of a charity volunteering event in Bali through Rotaract, involving construction, which he will be doing later this year. What he learned from the program will be invaluable in that effort.

Through the program he gained skills in construction, as well as a boost to his communication skills giving him greater confidence and leadership ability. And, most importantly, “Now I can show up my Dad because I know more about concreting that he does.”

Daniel greatly enjoyed doing the program. He liked the teamwork and the trust and rapport that grew among the participants as they worked together. And while his real ambitions are in IT, he is still extremely pleased he did the program and expanded his skills.

Five weeks before the end of the program Daniel went for a job interview, and is now working as a Level 1 ICT support officer at CEA Technologies, a defence contractor that supplies the Australian Royal Navy. He currently has one month left in his three-month probationary period for the position.

Since leaving the program, Daniel has also assisted one of his fellow Yass Construction participants, Patrick Coffey, in finding employment alongside him at CEA technology’s Fyshwick warehouse.

This isn’t where the journey ends for Daniel. In a few years, he plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the navy, working with their communications systems.

Although construction wasn’t what Daniel aimed to do as a career, the skills and experience he gained from SPARK aided him in leveraging a job in his real passion. This is just one of many examples of SPARK starting somebody on their career journey.

SPARK congratulates Daniel on his achievements and wishes him all the best in the future.

Georgia Elith-West Belconnen Administration Program

Georgia Elith had just come out of university with a double degree in visual arts and music, and was working as a waitress in the National Gallery of Australia’s café. She had been there three months as a temporary measure while she looked for full time employment. She was applying for administration positions because there are always entry-level admin jobs available somewhere and it seemed like a good place to start for employment. “I thought about trying to get a job in the areas I studied,” she says, “but really, I just wanted a full-time job.”

Although she already possessed many of the skills required in administration, Georgia had no formal qualifications, and finding a job was difficult. When she heard about SPARK through NBC employment services, she took the opportunity to get some of those qualifications and she became a participant in the 2017 West Belconnen Administration Program. The program ran for ten weeks, combined theory, practical learning, and work experience placements, and awarded its graduates with a Certificate II in Business and a Senior First Aid certificate.

Georgia had always been shy, and going into a program with a group of strangers was difficult at first, but the MEGT trainers and the other participants were all supportive and friendly, which assisted with that shyness starting out. But as the program continued her confidence grew with her experience.

A few weeks after graduating, Georgia applied for an administration position and, after a lengthy application and interviewing process, was accepted. She now works full-time for a subsidiary of Financial Index, Findex – a company that provides financial advice and accounting – as a client service administrator.

She celebrated her first pay check by buying herself an expensive mug.

“SPARK really got me going.” Georgia says. And now, with employment, qualification, and confidence, going is most definitely what she is doing.

Marvellous Sigudu-West Belconnen Construction Program

From South Africa originally, Marvellous Sigudu came to Australia as a teenager in 2012. Four years later, he was completing year 12 at Hawker College and looking for something to do next. He didn’t have the money for either university or an accredited training course.

He thought the ideal direction for him would be a trade, “I just like hands work, working with my hands”. Plumbing appealed to him the most, and he wanted to go into a plumbing apprenticeship if he could, but even so he felt that any of the trades would be rewarding to go into. When he saw a SPARK flyer posted in his school, it seemed perfect; taking him in the direction he wanted without the training costs that had been in his way. So Marvellous became one of the participants in the West Belconnen Construction Program.

The program ran for ten weeks, which participants spent renovating the old Kippax Health Centre’s courtyard and building a community garden facility at Canberra City Care. Graduates received a Certificate II in Construction, a White Card, and an Asbestos Awareness Ticket. Marvellous was one of those graduates.

During the program Marvellous worked diligently, enjoying the opportunity to build something, and at the same time made many friends among the participants, who he still keeps in touch with for the most part. And, “I got experience with construction work sites, I experienced what construction is like.” Experience that he now often has to draw upon in his chosen field.

In May, only a few months after the end of the program, he accepted a carpentry apprenticeship with the Australian Training Company, and is being hosted by J. J. Interiors, an Australian trading company that does professional interior design construction. Marvellous has been doing cabinetry and joinery with them. He also continues to study his trade at CIT. He plans to become a fully licensed carpenter and then a builder, and would like to one day go back and learn plumbing.

The experience and skills he gained through SPARK training have set Marvellous on a path. So long as he keeps up his hard work, that path could lead to a lifelong career.

Rebeka Auva-West Belconnen Administration Program

Before she found SPARK, Rebeka Auva’a was a housekeeper. It wasn’t exactly her dream job but she got by. That is, until she suffered an injury at work. While injured, she couldn’t do housekeeping anymore. The only options for work for her were jobs that didn’t require much standing.

In her condition, the best thing for Rebeka would have been something like Administration, but she had no qualifications of any kind. She’d tried to get a business certificate once, but she never finished the course. Explaining her situation to the Salvation Army Employment Plus agency, they referred her to SPARK. Rebeka became a participant in the West Belconnen Administration Program. The program ran for ten weeks, combined theory, practical learning, and work experience placements, and awarded its graduates with a Certificate II in Business and a Senior First Aid certificate.

Rebeka was nervous going in to the program. She had been thinking of it the way she had thought of school, where lateness was punished – and she nearly was late – but her fears were quickly allayed by the welcoming group joining her for the program.

The program had a profound effect on Rebeka, “It’s changed my life” she says. She greatly enjoyed both meeting new people and expanding her skills. She gained the ability to plan and manage her tasks. She had learned some computing in high school, which she’d forgotten, that she rediscovered through the use of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel in the program.

And the program built her confidence. Not her social confidence, Rebeka had that in abundance already, but her confidence in her skills. “I’m a lot more willing to stand up and go ‘I know how to do that’.” As for her social confidence, though she’s still as much of a people person as ever, the program made Rebeka quieter and more focused. And she was sad to see the program come to an end.

Rebeka’s ambitions had always been to become a real estate agent, and with SPARK finishing she was planning to go on to a course in real estate. But at graduation, she was approached by Spotless, one of the program’s work experience placement providers, who’d taken her for work experience during the program and had been extremely impressed, and now wanted to offer her a job. She took the offer immediately and began four days later, and she still works there now in the procurement section, inducting contractors and doing other general administration tasks.

She enjoys her current job, and intends to stay for now, to see where it takes her. She’d still like to learn about real estate one day but, for now at least, she’s happy where she is.

Through the program, Rebeka found a new direction. One more fulfilling than her old one ever was. SPARK is glad to see her back on her feet and moving ever upwards.

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