DIGGING IT: Students (from left) Josh Kendrick, 16, Lewis Rose, 16, Karlee Williams, 16, Will Sivewright, 15, and TAFE teacher Stuart Hanna.
DIGGING IT: Students (from left) Josh Kendrick, 16, Lewis Rose, 16, Karlee Williams, 16, Will Sivewright, 15, and TAFE teacher Stuart Hanna. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Course plants seed of future

CLASSROOMS are not the only place to learn about life when you're a teenager. For some, driving tractors and planting seeds are more satisfying than maths and science.

With this in mind, Goonellabah-based YWCA Northern Rivers has added a TAFE course in rural operations to its roster of free training opportunities for young people.

In the past three months 12 budding green thumbs have planted a huge vegetable plot at Wollongbar TAFE from seed, visited big nurseries, and learnt how to handle tractors, whipper snippers, chainsaws and motorbikes.

On Thursday they were busy planting rainforest and bush food species before their graduation next week.

Josh Kendrick, 16, said the course had opened his eyes to a career in horticulture.

"I'd love to get work from this," he said,

"I'm just an outside person and I'd love to be outdoors in the bush with nature."

Brooke Cunningham, YWCA program co-ordinator, said the hands-on support provided by YWCA helped students to complete the course.

For three months she has played a mentoring role, doing everything from driving students around to helping them get work experience.

"There's definitely an element of building their self-confidence during this time," she said.

"We look at things like communication, the expectations of an employee, (and) we help them build a resume.

"Yesterday we had someone from Apprenticeships Australia come and chat and we also had somebody from INTRA Youth Service talk to them about drugs and alcohol, and safe partying.

"Even if they don't take this up, they know there are other things out there."

In the meantime, she said, they had learnt to appreciate growing vegies from scratch.

"The first day we harvested they turned their noses up at lettuce and Asian greens, but now they're taking home garbage bags of produce and have a real sense of ownership."



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