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Australian apprenticeship ambassador Dene Halatau speaks to Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College students.

Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College Burwood is a finalist in the Australian Training Awards for a third year.

Assistant Minster for Education and Training Simon Birmingham announced the College was up for the School Pathways to Vocational Education and Training (VET) award during a visit to the College on September 3.

He said the school was an exemplar of excellence in school-based VET and that apprentices were at the heart of Australia’s skill development and economic growth, often going on to start their own businesses.

"We know from evidence that people who complete an apprenticeship are more than 90 per cent likely to have a job at the end of it," Senator Birmingham said. 

"We know that many people who complete trade-based pathways have starting salaries that are higher than many of those who are university graduates. It's is really exciting for me to come to the school where nearly half the students enrolled at the school are involved in some form of school-based apprenticeship or traineeship.

"It's a demonstration not just of the school's commitment to being flexible and providing opportunities for its students, but to the fact employers are very happy to work with the school in providing those opportunities for students."

The College was built with federal government funding pooled by a consortium of 11 Catholic schools in Sydney’s inner-west.  Principal Patrick O’Reilly said the nomination recognised the effort College staff had put into further development of courses and teaching since winning the same award in 2013.

"It’s just fantastic recognition for the whole staff," he said. 

"We're the only Catholic school to be nominated three times."

Australian apprenticeship ambassador and Wests Tigers' lock Dene Halatau spoke to a group of students about his role as a mentor in the 'Trading up with the NRL' program during the minister's visit. He is currently completing a Diploma in Building and Construction and has been a mentor in the program for the past four years, passing on his knowledge of skills learnt as an apprentice while in the NRL including time management, goal setting, cross-cultural awareness, conflict resolution and communication.

The Trading Up program is funded by the Federal Government and aims to increase the retention and completion rates of Australian apprentices who are also involved in Rugby League.

Halatau told students that professional football could be a "bit of a fish bowl" and that learning a trade would help secure his future after the game.

"The Trade up program gets us out as mentors to see apprentices in our local area and within our club," he said. 

"It's passing on some knowledge of the experience undertaking some study [and] how to balance that with our football life.

"One of the main reasons I started doing this was that I found it was hard for me to decide what I wanted to do post-football.

"The path that you guys are going down now by being at a school that encourages you to partake in Vocational Education and Training at such a young age gives you a really good platform into the future."

Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College is a senior secondary college committed to delivering high quality vocational learning and training across areas including Business Services, Hospitality, Beauty, Fitness, Construction, Health Services and Automotive. Students complete their Higher School Certificate and three VET qualifications at the same time.

This article first appeared on aboutcatholicschools

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