There are myriad training programs for unemployed youth, yet few of these spend months preparing young people for work. The Marist Youth Care Centre in Brunswick, however, helps young people through the basics of finding and holding down a job.

The centre takes in young people from various backgrounds who may have suffered early disengagement from school, a history of homelessness, substance abuse, or mental-health issues, and aims to prepare them for work. “We provide pretty innovative training that’s heavily case-managed by our youth workers,” explained skills development co-ordinator Rachel Burns. “We have the luxury of being able to spend a lot of time with each young person, so it gives us a while to iron out any issues they may have.”

The team is made up of trained youth workers who engage in practical activities that the young people enjoy – much of this involves helping out in the local community. “We focus on hands-on tasks in a really dynamic environment,” said Rachel. “Many of our young people have had fairly negative experiences with education in the past – they don’t like sitting down in classrooms.”

Every part of the course coaches the young people toward getting a job. “As part of the training we do a lot of employability focused skills,” said Rachel. “We work on their resumes, on confidence, and get them new outfits, which is always pretty exciting.”

The service extends beyond the course itself, with youth workers carefully monitoring students once they’re in the workplace. “After graduation, we have three months during which we support our our young people into their new employment,” said Rachel.

“If something goes wrong in the young person’s personal life, we try to help them resolve those issues without them having to feel like they need to quit their job.”

Beyond fostering job skills, the centre looks after kids who, by any measure, have been doing it tough. A recent grant from Coca-Cola Australia Foundation allows the centre to provide healthy lunches. Each class member is assigned a day to choose and prepare a meal that they then share with their peers.

“A lot of our kids don’t have any money, so for them not to be hungry or stressed out, and to have a proper meal with vegetables every day, it really makes a difference,” said Rachel. “It’s a good platform for building ‘soft skills’ around issues, and let the kids develop a rapport with other kids. It’s about social skills, about being able to sit down, eat, and speak with people.”

With 79 per cent of students reaching graduation, the program is an unqualified success. “It’s awesome,” said Rachel. “We may have two kids drop out of every program, but our success rate is pretty good. The young people complete the training and it’s accredited. We get to have a graduation with them, and it’s often the first time they’ve received certificates. It’s really exciting for them.”