ATWEA’s role has always been to provide a stable learning platform that could flex and adjust to the ever-changing needs of the community.
There have been many challenges over a long and rich 100-year history to providing adult workers with access to education, but perhaps none quite as impactful as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September, the region’s unemployment rate jumped up to 9 per cent – the highest levels of job losses since the pandemic took hold early this year. While this is not a complete shock to organisations and people working in and around business, education and employment pathway sectors, this fact serves to underline further the importance of our region working to ensure that we have the right support structure for the region’s eventual recovery.
Our part, and particularly our role as a provider of education and learning to some of our community’s most vulnerable, is to continue to work across our community to ensure that can we help people.
While the college has changed significantly even within the past seven months, its commitment to delivering tailored education and learning solutions for our community has not.
Despite the challenges, Atwea has been able to provide learning and education that adds value to individual, community and economic outcomes through skills training, educational qualifications and lifestyle learning options. But, not in the same way or via traditional education pathways.
We know that our community need to access affordable and bespoke educational courses that are designed to suit their needs as they navigate through the health and economic challenges of COVID-19.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the college which includes eight campuses in the region (including the Alesco Senior College) that are operated by more than 100 staff who provide learning options to thousands of local people each year. While the organisation continued to hold on to its staff, the delivery of face to face accredited and non-accredited courses were put on hold. However, Atwea has since advanced its plans for a new online teaching platform and has been successful in attracting additional government funding to provide facilitated learning.
A NSW Government grant earlier this year provided additional skills training for the growing number of unemployed in our community, while in just a few weeks a record number of high school students will graduate from the Alesco Senior College.
Importantly, our focus has been on ensuring delivery of online and blended learning platforms specifically for people who have been redeployed, unemployed, low to middle-income adults who were at home and considering future job prospects.
Atwea offers courses in skill sets in focussed service industries, business, health and community services. It also provides training for entry-level job seekers through customised skill sets.
Within the next few months, our region will need to respond further to the impacts of unemployment and job displacement. At the heart of this is the need to ensure that we work collaboratively to identify ways to support people to secure a job or create a job.
This is about providing access to affordable and relevant skills training. Atwea is well prepared and is working with businesses, organisations, the not for profit sector and the wider community to develop the right courses and learning experiences now and into the future – whatever that might look like.
Words: Rowan Cox - ATWEA