The Victorian Government’s skills Reconnect Program will feature at the Community Colleges Australia National ACE Summit on 5 April.
The Reconnect Program assists participants to overcome multiple barriers preventing them from engaging in education, training and employment and provides support for further study or employment, providing the supported pathways many learners need to succeed and break the cycle of disadvantage.
Summit participants will receive a briefing on the Reconnect Program from Jane Ward, Executive Director, Higher Education and Workforce Division, and Desh Balasubramaniam, Manager, Learner Pathways Unit, VIC Department of Education and Training.
“The Victorian Government’s Reconnect Program is an outstanding model for learner outreach and engagement. The state-wide approach, multi-year commitment, focus on the most disadvantaged learners, and utilisation of public-TAFE and not-for-program community education – Learn Local – providers has created an excellent model that the Commonwealth, and all states and territories must consider emulating, given the high level of community need. Outreach and engagement are particularly important in the light of the impacts of COVID-19, which has discouraged many disadvantaged and vulnerable learners from participating in pre-accredited and non-accredited skills programs and formal vocational education and training courses,” said CCA’s CEO, Dr Don Perlgut.
“CCA is pleased that the Summit will host this valuable briefing on learner engagement in action,” said Dr Perlgut.
Following the Department’s presentation, Summit panelists will discuss disadvantaged learner engagement and outreach, including:
- Angela Angelopoulos and Rae Jamieson from Jesuit Social Services, which delivers Reconnect in the Greater Dandenong and Frankston local government areas. (Download a copy of the Jesuit Social Services submission entitled “Re-engaging disadvantaged learners in education, training and employment”.)
- Kylie Fergusen, CEO, Community Centres SA; and Nicole Battle, CEO of Neighbourhood Houses Victoria
- Liz Jones, Good Things Foundation Australia, on the importance of learner digital inclusion and access
About the Reconnect Program
The Reconnect Program is intended to improve a person’s chance of breaking the cycle of disadvantage by creating equity, improving access and increasing choice in pathways through education and employment.
Reconnect also supports the integral role that TAFEs, Learn Locals and Skills and Jobs Centres have in the Victorian training system. Reconnect provides the opportunity for close partnerships between these organisations, ensuring that learners experiencing disadvantage are supported to engage meaningfully in their chosen education, training and/or employment pathway.
Eligible learners include (see graphic below):
- Young people aged between 17-19 years are not engaged in education or training for six months or more (less than 8 hours per week)
- Mature participants aged between 20-64 years, unemployed for six months or more (less than 8 hours per week) and not engaged in education or training for six months or more (less than 8 hours per week)
- Young people (17 to 24 years of age) on Youth Justice Orders
- Asylum seekers
- Additional target groups such as people impacted by bushfires, COVID-19 or retrenchment
The program is funded to support over 1,700 participants each year, by providing wrap-around supports and interventions that aim at addressing non-vocational barriers that impact a person’s ability to reach their participation potential.
Participants: Since its commencement in 2016, the Reconnect Program has supported 7,425 participants, of which:
- 93% were unemployed or underemployed
- 71% were aged 25 or under
- 5% were Aboriginal
- 70% were female
- 27% were from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
- 26% had an identified disability
- 92% had no previous qualifications
Services: Reconnect providers offer a range of supports which may include:
- counselling and mentoring
- housing and accommodation services referral
- mental health support referral
- foundation skills
- employability skills
- careers information, planning and advice
Reconnect Program elements:
- engage non-service-connected participants via outreach activities
- develop and maintain place-based partnerships and connections with organisations and the community to facilitate referral pathways into the program
- assess participants’ suitability for the program
- Learner wrap-around supports
- identify the support needs of participants
- refer participants to support services through partnerships and connections
- identify personal interests and identify opportunities for community participation
- Education, training, and employment
- identify education and training needs and goals
- facilitate participation in in pre-accredited vocational education and training
- facilitate participation in accredited vocational education and training
- identify employment needs and goals and facilitate employment opportunities with industry partners
- support participants to transition into an appropriate pathway out of the program into education, training, employment, or further service provision at a partner organisation
Providers: From 2021, 34 providers deliver the Reconnect Program across all 79 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Victoria. The providers are made up of TAFEs, Learn Local Organisations and Community Service Organisations. Learn Local (adult and community education – ACE) providers include Jesuit Social Services, Advance Community College, Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, Carringbush Adult Education, CIRE Education Services, Diamond Valley Learning Centre, Mountain District Learning Centre, Murray ACE – Swan Hill, Pines Learning Centre, PRACE, The Centre for Continuing Education, Westgate Community Initiatives Group, Wingate Avenue Community Centre and Wyndham Community and Education Centre.
Program Funding: The Victorian Government has invested $30 million across the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 financial years, on top of the initial $20 million funding in 2017 and the $14 million Reconnect Engagement and Learner Support (REALS) Grant pilot program, funded in 2016. The Government has invested a further $47 million over the next four years for the Reconnect Program 2021.