NRL School to Work participant Libby Clapson's efforts were recognised with the My Gateway School Based Trainee of the Year award earlier this month.
Clapson, a Year 11 student at Magdalene Catholic College in south-west Sydney, has worked one day per week with Campbelltown City Council's People and Performance team since January while undertaking a Certificate III in Business Administration.
"I've put in so much hard work over the past year. I really didn't expect [the award], but it was a really big honour," Clapson said.
The teenager said the NRL School to Work program, which helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students transition from secondary school into meaningful employment or tertiary education, had provided constant support during her traineeship.
"I think it's a great program - students and schools are very lucky to be involved in it," Clapson said, adding that Alanah Scholes - an NRL and Wests Tigers S2W project officer - had been tremendous since engaging with Magdalene Catholic College around term three.
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"Alanah would come out to school every two weeks throughout the year, and she would check in on me. We'd sit down for an hour every fortnight, I'd just tell her how my last two weeks have been.
"She'd help me, she'd text me throughout the week, give me a phone call, see how I'm going, email me, all things like that.
"She's a lovely person, honestly. We've had the best supervisor given to us. She's great, she's been so supportive. She's a very good listener."
I've put in so much hard work over the past year ... it was a really big honourNRL School to Work participant Libby Clapson
Scholes, who worked in Talent and Culture for a major hotel company before joining the NRL, has passed her knowledge onto Clapson.
"The traineeship was set up before I started working with her, but it's good with our relationship – I'm able to debrief with her when she's back at school," Scholes said.
"I ask her how her placement days go and ask her about the different types of duties she does. I kind of help her paint a picture of the different pathways she could do after school and how she could get into a Human Resources type of role or People and Culture."
COVID-19 restrictions meant Clapson wasn't able to work from the office for a time. Instead, she focused on her TAFE coursework.
But she's now tasted a wide variety of business areas.
"There are so many different things that I've been involved in. I think the community is what I've learnt most about. I didn't realise how many different things people could be involved in," Clapson said.
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"At the moment [I'm] doing Workers Comp work. I've had experience all over the council in different departments. Working with children checks, just general business work."
Clapson hopes to one day become a police officer or work in Human Resources, crediting School to Work with broadening her horizons.
"Definitely in terms of the HR - I wasn't really into that," she said.
"But definitely School to Work has helped me decide that that's what I think I want to do, or policing as well."
Scholes will continue assisting Clapson next year as she weighs up an abundance of career options.
"We're considering lots of different things. Even the council are looking at offering her a full-time role when she finishes school as well," Scholes said.
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"I'll support her through that transition, whether she decides to stay on with the council or whether we decide to look at other community roles.
"It's been a pleasure working with her … To see how she stuck out her traineeship throughout COVID and even to start working with myself - she's a very intelligent young lady and is going to have a promising future that I'm really excited to be a part of."
NRL School to Work is funded and supported by the Australian Government, with the program being backed until at least 2023.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, a record 500 School to Work students finished Year 12 in 2020 across NSW, Queensland and Victoria. A total of 2500 students have graduated from the program since its inception in 2012.