Sunshine Coast Trade and Industry School sets High Expectations for its Graduates


Sunshine Coast Trade and Industry School sets High Expectations for its Graduates

While the exterior of the building at 170 Horton Parade still displays TAFE Queensland signage, since last July, the halls and classrooms inside have been home to the newest campus of Queensland’s fastest-growing school group, the Australian Industry Trade College, where more than 90% of students complete Year 12 and are signed to an apprenticeship by the time they graduate.

The AITC concept, where students focus equally on classroom and practical experience, came from a collaboration more than ten years ago between educators and industry, including current CEO Mark Hands a former school principal with both degree and trade qualifications.

“I was frustrated by the traditional school model, where students tend to be encouraged to focus on achieving acceptance into a university program at the completion of Year 12. As a school principal, it was obvious to me that there were plenty of young people that had the intelligence and the ability to succeed, but lacked the interest in pursuing a university degree. As a result, they were often labelled disengaged, where the reality was they just needed something to inspire them to focus.”

As it turns out, industry leaders and tradespeople shared Mark’s view, “I was originally approached by a group of leading industry representatives that were frustrated by the lack of practical skill and work ethic demonstrated by students coming out of high school looking for apprenticeships.”

“I interviewed over a hundred business owners across industries that hire apprentices or trainees and asked them one thing, ’If you could build a school with the aim of providing the best apprentices with the right work ethic, what would it look like?’”

The answers resulted in a school that divides time evenly between its academic program and practical training, spending five weeks in the classroom before rotating across for five weeks with either TAFE Queensland (a major sponsor of AITC), other training organisations, or directly with employers. The aim is for Year 12 students to graduate with a Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) as well as being signed into an apprenticeship or traineeship.

And the results have been fairly astonishing. 98% of year twelve students achieved their QCE in 2018 (the state average was 85% in 2017[i]) while by the time they graduated, 93% had been signed by an employer to complete their apprenticeship. By comparison, in 2018 the state average for employment within 6 months of graduation from high school was 28.2%[ii]. Even university students only had an average of 72.9% employment within four months of graduation[iii].

The success of the AITC program was recognised when the college was named on The Educator magazine’s Australian Innovative Schools 2018 list[iv].

According to Acting Principal for the Sunshine Coast Campus, Toni Banfield , a key component of the school’s success – after launching in Robina it now has campuses in Redlands and Maroochydore with a fourth opening in Toowoomba in July this year – is that students are treated like young adults as soon as they arrive.

“There is a high level of expectation about their behaviour; handshakes and eye contact when meeting staff or employers, first name basis for everyone on campus – including for my staff and I, and a code of behaviour that includes; Respect, Pride, Courage, Honesty, Mateship, Hard Work and Safety. We prefer to set high standards and have our young people rise to the challenge rather than lower our expectations to the level they are used to.”

Toni is excited about 2020 – when the current Year 11 students will move through to create the campus’ first Year 12 cohort – but she is even more excited about the prospect of welcoming new students in the July intake.

“The great thing about young people starting with us in July is that they have an additional six months to decide what industry they are really passionate about. Our Year 10s in particular have the opportunity to complete a ‘Trade Taster’ where they undertake short trials across a wide range of industries and trades. By the time they get to Year 12, they have a lot more clarity about exactly what they want to do.”

“With our Open Day coming up on Tuesday 28 May, we are looking forward to welcoming a whole new group of families into this highly successful education model.”

The Sunshine Coast Campus Open Day is on 28 May from 3.00pm at 170 Horton Parade, including information sessions at 3.30pm and 5.00pm

Sunshine Coast Open Day media requests: Ariane Kiel 07 5357 8600

General media enquiries: Neil Donnelly 0400 881 722