InRoads program creates hopeful path for school-leavers

High school students who don’t pursue tertiary education are at greater risk of long-term unemployment. An ABCN program designed to buck that trend has helped dozens of such students find entry-level jobs.

Like many students his age, Ahmed had no idea what he wanted to do when he left school. Now a permanent employee at Optus, he credits the mentors he met on the InRoads program for his new outlook and transition to the workplace. ‘I still remember the advice: that our careers will be like a spider’s web, not like a ladder,’ he says. ‘The mentors helped open my mind up to different things, to understand more about life and working. Your career doesn’t just happen overnight, you have to work for it.’

A collaboration with JPMorgan since 2015, InRoads aims to kick-start careers for Year 12 students from low socio-economic schools who don’t intend to go on to further study. The program provides participants with key employability skills to prepare them for entry-level positions, with a focus on IT and technology jobs. Students learn how to use social media in a job search, how to write a CV and how to behave in an interview. Additional support is provided by ABCN’s program partner, Talent RISE, to source job placements for the students.

In 2018, more than 200 students participated in the program, mentored by 69 volunteers from eight ABCN member companies and business partners. Ahmed benefitted from one of 91 job placements made possible through the initiative. He was invited to participate in the Optus Pathways to Employment program and apply for a casual role at one of the company’s retail stores. He worked for three months as a concierge – greeting and directing Optus customers, and assisting with tasks such as activating pre-paid SIM cards. He was then offered his current role as a retail consultant – a permanent position where Ahmed says he feels privileged to be helping customers make the right choices with their phone and internet options.

Ahmed is one of four InRoads students who went on to gain employment with Optus. ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for students to experience real-world skills not possible in a classroom setting,’ says Helen Maisano, Optus Director of Group Sustainability. ‘From our perspective, it also exposes us to enthusiastic young people who may not have the confidence to contact us directly.’

Although still not sure what he wants to do in the future, Ahmed is keen on the potential to grow within Optus. ‘I have learned to be more confident at Optus,’ he says. ‘Not every customer is the same, everyone is different. I have learnt how to deal with people from different age groups; they understand technology differently. I am now able to make connections with all different types of people.’

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