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VCAL Achievement Awards

The VCAL Achievement Awards celebrate outstanding achievements of young people who participate in and complete a VCAL qualification. The awards also recognise the exceptional efforts of committed teachers and community partners who have played significant roles within the VCAL program. The VCAL Achievement Awards take place in Term 2 each year.

The students, schools and their community partners are living examples of excellence in applied learning. They demonstrate that we can and must find diverse ways of challenging, extending and promoting learning for the full range of young people.

Celebrating the Class of 2021

The VCAL Achievement Awards were presented in a ceremony at the Edge, Fed Square on Thursday 28 April 2022.

Parliamentary Secretary for Schools, Tim Richardson, participated in the ceremony, praising students for their resilience throughout the pandemic.

Suzy Chandler, Executive Director of Curriculum at VCAA hosted the ceremony with guest speakers Parliamentary Secretary Tim Richardson and Dakota Walker, Wantirna College, recipient of a Senior Work Related Skills award.

Read the student speech by Dakota Walker

Why is there a stigma attached to applied learning?

My senior secondary education through applied learning was rich with experiences – it was challenging. I organised whole school events, presented in front of over 1500 students and negotiated with the principal to pitch my ideas for projects.

I investigated multiple career pathways, I experienced success in the workplace, and I am now studying a Diploma of Visual Arts at Swinburne Institute.

I am here today to tell you my applied learning story and challenge the myth that applied learning is the easy option.

I chose VCAL because I knew as a learner, I would be more successful in an environment where I could do more practical work. I saw past students work on topics that were important to me such as buying your first car and moving out home and through my passion for woodwork I wanted to be a carpenter.

I had amazing experiences and opportunities through VCAL but I also faced challenges. In Year 11 I was the only girl in my building and construction class. Because I was a girl people tried to tell me to try cabinet making instead and continually questioned my choice to be a carpenter. I was awarded the Excellence Award for my VET course in building and construction but being the only girl in a male dominated industry, both in the classroom and on the worksite, was tough because there is such a lack of female role models. While in theory we believe that girls can do anything, there is still work to be done to ensure there is equity of choices for all young people in all industries.

The second challenge I encountered was completing Year 12 in 2021. As the VCAL Captain at Wantirna College having the challenge of being a leader during COVID was tough. But it also made me look at the world in alternative ways and having to make a plan a, b, c and sometimes z was a great learning experience.

One of my goals as a VCAL leader was to prove to the VCE students that applied learning was not the easy option. Because of COVID, the VCAL students were given the task of organising all the Year 12 end of year events. And this enabled us to receive huge recognition from our peers and made me really proud when they acknowledged what a fantastic celebration, they had because of the VCAL students.

While I did love the practical side of building and construction in Year 12, I did decide to change course and began the Cert II in Design Fundamentals. I had been working outside of school organising kid’s parties, which I really enjoyed, and I began to think I would like to combine my love for crafts (wood, art and design) with teaching. I discussed how I could achieve this pathway through VCAL with the career advisor at school.

A highlight of Year 12 was my work placement at Aspace manufacturing. I was able to put the theory of my VET course into practice. I was asked to design a piece of playground equipment to be constructed in a playground in Officer. I attended meetings and used my design process skills to design the structure to meet the client’s requirements including safety and vision. A real-life task with real life customers – that’s why I chose VCAL, and again, that’s why it is not the easy option.

When I got into my course my mum started tearing up – she was so proud of me. I never thought I would go on to tertiary studies, because people think VCAL is just for tradies. I am the only person in my family to go on to tertiary studies. My course immerses me in the theory and practical aspects of visual arts, and I am so inspired to pass on my passion when I follow my dreams to be a teacher in the future.

 

Recipients of the 2021 VCAL Achievement Awards

Award recipients

Student Awards

Foundation Personal Development Skills

Remi Tilders – Berry Street School Ballarat – Richmond campus, Wadawurrung Country

Remi completed VCAL over three years at the Berry Street School, overcoming significant challenges. They have shown exceptional courage and perseverance, always turning up and completing the work required to achieve their VCAL qualification.

Remi has been involved in a range of activities as a Personal Development Skills student, including organising an afternoon tea for student families, cooking a variety of delicious meals, organising and participating in excursions, and completing high-quality written work.

The afternoon tea was organised and carried out by Remi and a team of peers. The purpose of the afternoon tea was to educate families and friends of the role of the Berry Street Education Model and how this is used in the VCAL classroom. Remi was an enthusiastic participant in preparing and delivering a talk to the audience on how relationship underpins learning at the Berry Street School. They shared their experiences and joined in a musical presentation to the audience.

Remi initiated and organised a fete to raise money for Canteen Australia. This initiative was in collaboration with the PitchUps Program, delivered by Ballarat City Council. Remi organised a variety of activities for students, teachers and guests, including a dunking machine, face painting, lucky dips and food stalls. Remi spoke in front of the school and guests and courageously shaved their head to raise additional funds.

The fete raised over $400, a clear testament to Remi’s hard work and initiative. They demonstrated personal growth, leadership and high-level communication skills, and were a wonderful role model to other VCAL students. Remi showed great maturity by focusing on completing their work. They regularly used planning tools and strategies to stay on task and encouraged other students to come to school and complete their work.

Remi is now focusing on using and building the range of skills developed through VCAL by seeking casual work.

Intermediate Outstanding Achievement

Ella Heidecker – Mentone Grammar, Bunurong Country

Ella successfully completed her Intermediate VCAL in 2021. She epitomises how a student can effectively undertake an applied learning pathway tailored to their career interests and goals.

Ella is considering a career as a pilot or in sustainable land management. To support this, she is completing Aviation for her VET course and working with Kingston Council in the Bush Management team for her Structured Workplace Learning. She has also decided to undertake scored VCE English Language and VCE Mathematical Methods to keep her tertiary study options open and challenge herself academically.

Ella balanced her extra-curricular activities, TAFE, Structured Workplace Learning and school studies extremely well. This included preparing for VCE SACs and exams, completing a Certificate II in Business, and becoming the Woodwind Leader in her school’s music program. She was also appointed a member of her house leadership team, as well as Applied Learning Leader for 2022.

Within the Personal Development Skills program, Ella has enthusiastically participated in a range of projects to develop interpersonal and project management skills. Recently, she planned and created a documentary entitled ‘A Day in the Life’, which showcased a typical day for a student during remote learning. She demonstrated a high level of creativity, technological skill and self-management to deliver the project in a timely manner.

For Work Related Skills, Ella’s DIY project involved tidying up the back patio and then refurbishing a table and chairs for the space. She demonstrated great project management skills and enthusiasm. She also helped to hold a pizza lunch for her classmates to celebrate the return to onsite learning, including ordering ingredients, making pizzas and learning to use her school’s wood-fired pizza oven. At Longerenong Agricultural College, Ella explored her interest in land management, conducting research into crop management, including the use of drone technology, and was an enthusiastic participant in farm activities, such as drafting sheep, riding quad bikes and welding.

Ella is enjoying her role as Applied Learning Leader in 2022. She is excited to promote pathways to other students in school and her local community.

Intermediate Personal Development Skills

Evan Henderson – Wantirna College, Wurundjeri Country

Evan has always been keen to hone his skills in the entertainment industry. After joining the tech crew at Wantirna College, he soon became a key team member, including working outside of normal school hours to assist and lead backstage productions for several performances.

Evan’s experience with the tech crew culminated in his successful application for the Victorian State School Spectacular 2019, for which he was the Assistant Stage Manager. His role involved managing the student performers and making sure they were in place for all segments of the production. During this event, Evan liaised with many entertainment industry workers, with whom he has continued a professional relationship. Using the refined event management and operations skills he drew from this experience, Evan applied himself to the Wantirna College annual production to great success.

VCAL has given Evan the opportunity to combine his passions and skills with his senior studies. He has driven his own learning and mapped individual projects to the VCAL Personal Development Skills outcomes. In Term 1, he was asked by the Assistant Principal of Teaching and Learning to develop a school-wide electronic portfolio platform. Evan prepared a comprehensive presentation, outlining the rationale for the portfolios, describing their function and identifying potential impediments. As part of the roll-out, Evan communicated with teachers and scheduled classroom visits to better acquaint everyone with the system.

In 2021, Evan took on the leadership role of College Art and Technology Captain, revolutionising student engagement with the arts. He was an instrumental member of a team initiative to run a food drive with local community organisation TLC Support. Evan also participated in a high-level work placement connected to his VET studies in sound production.

Evan has been acknowledged for his outstanding college leadership. Last year he was awarded the Aston Shield award, presented by local member the Hon. Alan Tudge MP. Evan’s initiative, drive and passion for the industry will doubtless see him succeed in his chosen career.

Intermediate Team Achievement

Kaylah Allan-Brown, Nathan Butler, Chelsea Jansen, Soli Kolose, Chanel Ulutui and Marshall Rogers – Cranbourne East Secondary College, Bunurong Country

As part of Personal Development Skills Unit 2, this team delivered a successful community awareness project, ‘End Family Violence Now!’

They began by participating in information sessions with Wayss, an organisation that helps young people experiencing homelessness. They identified that most of the homelessness in the local City of Casey area was due to family and domestic violence. The students were shocked to see that during COVID-19 lockdowns, family violence rates skyrocketed in the local community. They proposed running an awareness campaign about family violence and its effects.

The students designed hoodies to be worn on an awareness day and reached out to local community members and parents to help make them. They also created leaflets, organised barbecues, prepared food stalls and planned activities. Once other students in the cohort caught wind of the idea, they all wanted to participate. Over 50 students and many teachers now wear the popular ‘End Family Violence Now’ hoodies, with teachers receiving multiple student requests for more.

The team behind the ‘End Family Violence Now!’ community awareness project showed personal growth and leadership skills. More importantly, they demonstrated a development in their mindsets, civic responsibilities, cohesive teamwork, creativity, compassion, conflict resolution skills and ability to listen.

Intermediate Work Related Skills

James Commerford – Mentone Grammar, Bunurong Country

Over the course of the year, James took on every challenge and opportunity to gain work experience and develop his employability skills. He challenged himself with a school renovation project to design and install seating in the school café area.

To achieve this, he applied exceptional problem solving and communication skills, as well as a rigorous approach to mathematics and logistics. He diligently learnt how to use carpentry hand tools to develop technical skills and used teamwork skills to ensure a quality product. This was well outside the remit of his TAFE studies in Event Management.

James’ Structured Workplace Learning placement was initially not a rewarding experience, as he felt he was being given tasks that were too simple. He regularly consulted with his VCAL Coordinator and developed the confidence to speak to his workplace supervisor and ask for more challenging work to develop his skills. This resulted in more variation in his placement and taught James the results of being assertive.

James maximised his time during remote learning to complete a DIY project that would showcase development for Work Related Skills. He decided to construct a treehouse in his backyard and set about planning, completing a risk assessment, sourcing materials and constructing the treehouse in stages with his father. The project was shared collaboratively in an online forum with his peers and he received extremely positive feedback on his achievements.

The quality that sets James apart in Work Related Skills is his perseverance. James kept trying to find a placement, even though event management is often a difficult industry to find a placement, particularly during the pandemic. He eventually decided to work with the school’s Registrar, completing administrative tasks, assisting the School Event Manager with care packages for students returning to onsite learning and co-hosting private school tours. During Term 4, with no tours taking place, he opted to continue working on both his placement day as well as his TAFE day as a teacher assistant in the local primary school.

James’ motivation throughout the year did not wane despite the difficulties and inconsistencies caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns. He always called in to remote classes on time, with his microphone on, ready to participate in discussions and activities. He maintained his strong work ethic throughout remote learning, as evidenced by completing his VET and VCAL units and his outstanding DIY project, as well as developing his organisational and planning skills to a very high level.

Koorie Student Achievement

Shakira Paton – Kyabram P–12 College, Yorta Yorta Country

Shakira faced major challenges during the completion of her VCAL. In 2020, she transferred into VCAL when she realised VCE didn’t suit her. The adjustment was difficult, especially as it was done remotely during the pandemic.

In 2021, however, she was able to gain extensive confidence and self-belief through her VCAL studies. Meeting major challenges head on, Shakira embodied the Kyabram P–12 College values of ‘resilience’ and ‘doing your best’, never giving up with her studies.

This was particularly evident when, faced with personal challenges, Shakira withdrew from her VET course and yet was still able to meet the Industry Specific Skills Strand through the more familiar environment of the college’s internal RTO. Just before she finished, Shakira was accepted into a GOTAFE course for Education Support, which has become a major passion.

Shakira’s gained confidence in her literacy skills by completing work in areas of her interest, such as the arts and social justice. Her confidence in numeracy has also increased exponentially. She was also able to develop a clearly defined career action plan after researching a variety of different post-secondary offerings through the Skills for Further Study Senior curriculum. This course also enabled her to critically evaluate and improve her organisation and time-management skills.

In her Work Related Skills Strand, Shakira developed confidence applying for jobs and her occupational health and safety knowledge. Furthermore, she refined her knowledge of various industries and workplace conditions. She also completed a variety of complex, self-directed activities, such as assisting on Primary Athletics day and designing signs to celebrate her culture.

Shakira has developed great ownership over her studies, as well as pride in her work. Ultimately, not only has Shakira developed incredibly as a young woman throughout her VCAL journey but has also demonstrated clear excellence in all her VCAL strands. She has set a great example for students and the wider community.

School Based Apprenticeship/Trainee

Montana Veness – Cranbourne East Secondary School, Bunurong Country

Montana is a determined, dedicated and extremely hard-working student who showed great commitment to her VCAL studies and her Head Start auto technician apprenticeship.

Montana has excelled across the board. During 2021, she received certificates of excellence in the categories of Intermediate Work Related Skills, Numeracy and VET Certificate II in Creative Industries at her school’s Semester 1 Year 11 Awards. At the Year 11 Final Awards Assembly she was awarded the Certificate of Excellence again for Work Related Skills, as well as being the recipient of the Year 11 Values Award for Achievement.

Montana achieved this while attending classes only two days a week, spending three days a week at her apprenticeship with Mazda Berwick. She balanced this reduced school timetable and still excelled in her studies. She also managed the competing demands of block TAFE dates and VCAL classes. She did this with maturity and ability, managing all these competing demands successfully and excelling in all areas.

Montana plans to graduate with a Senior VCAL Certificate in mid-2022, and then move into her apprenticeship on a full-time basis. Montana has been an outstanding VCAL student and inspiring role model to other students, particularly to young women thinking of pursuing a career in traditionally male-dominated areas.

Montana was featured in a Head Start video as part of the Victorian Government’s Girls Trade Up campaign, which aimed to encourage and celebrate women in the trades.

Senior Outstanding Achievement

Shari Smith – Surf Coast Secondary College, Wadawurrung Country

Over the last two years since entering the VCAL program Shari has developed her skills enormously. She has also refined a strong sense of identity, social justice and empathy, demonstrating all-round excellence in her Integrated VCAL program at Surf Coast Secondary College.

Shari has been nominated for her formal studies, as well as her active involvement within her SBAT Certificate III in Allied Health including Structured Workplace Learning embedded within the VCAL program. She has worked to an incredibly high standard, as well as being a strong advocate for the vast opportunities available to students both at school and the wider Barwon region.

Shari is a strong leader who motivates, encourages and supports her peers. She is always willing to take part in any opportunities presented to her and is the first to help whenever support is asked for.

Within her formal studies, Shari has contributed to and completed the following to a high standard:

  • a project plan for running and managing a café including input and output data for Numeracy Unit 2
  • a guide for teenagers to improve their relationship with food and celebrate body positivity
  • an SBAT Certificate III in Allied Health
  • a variety of Structured Workplace Learning opportunities, ranging from business and interior design, to seek out the right employment fit for her
  • a functional floor plan for the VCAL food truck.

Shari has also led numerous projects and activities, including the Schools of Philanthropy Program and Feed Me Surf Coast Food Co Op, as well as cooking with the Salvation Army. She also ran school based fitness activities, and leading students in training sessions at F45 Training and the Boneyard Gym.

Shari makes the best out of any situation, inspiring others around her. She is a strategic planner by nature and is always looking at ways to improve herself. Without doubt, Shari will positively influence and impact the community as she enters the next stage of her journey after school.

Senior Personal Development Skills

Sarah Mason – Marymede Catholic College, Wurundjeri Country

Sarah epitomises all that a Senior VCAL student can achieve when they are empowered to embrace their passions.

For her final VCAL Personal Development Skills project, she created the Wildlife Rescue Pouches company Snuggle & Co. Not only did she learn a new skill by learning how to sew but she also developed a new respect for vets and vet nurses.

Sarah’s project stemmed from her experience with her unwell guinea pigs. The vet gave Sarah a ‘snuggle sack’ to keep her pets warm in their final moments. This meant a great deal to Sarah. The vet explained that snuggle sacks were commonly used to protect and comfort injured wildlife, especially during the bushfires.

In that conversation, Snuggle & Co. was born.

Sarah approached the local Vinnies and other second-hand stores to gather polar fleece items that had been donated but were not necessarily good enough to be sold. She also bought fabrics, created the template pattern and through trial and error determined the sizes and fabrics that would work best for the animals.

Sarah was able to adapt to various challenges during COVID-19 restrictions, including her sewing machine breaking down and personal circumstances. She was able to create a phenomenal presentation, which she delivered to the Head of Teaching and Learning. Her presentation encompassed all aspects of VCAL, from the Literacy Skills strand to Numeracy Skills strand, with the costings, as well as the OHS requirements. Sarah was able to critically analyse every step in the process.

Despite having been a COVID-19 close contact on more than one occasion, Sarah was able to make effective decisions about her social mobility. She planned effectively for contingencies, such as when materials did not arrive. She also designed a business logo to put on the completed pouches before they were given to an animal hospital.

Sarah demonstrates resilience and determination. Throughout her other projects she was also involved in group tasks which demonstrated teamwork skills and leadership abilities. Sarah is truly ready to begin a successful career.

Senior Team Achievement

Remy Hall, Charlotte Large and Alessia Lauretta – Marymede Catholic College, Wurundjeri Country

This student team had great success together in Year 11 and extended their high standard of achievement into Year 12. They are a brilliant example of what a senior team can do together. Remi, Charlotte and Alessia created multiple projects throughout the year but one that stands out is their passion project: Keeping Children Nutritious, a series of educational workshops and events for community members as well as kindergarten-age students.

These students started as part of a larger team that tackled homelessness and food insecurity in their local community; this team spirit continued throughout the year. They took lead roles in the creation of a food bank, which involved collecting, collating, marketing and producing food packs. The team addressed staff and students at an assembly to explain the program and ask for donations. They presented a compelling video marketing the campaign, starring staff and students from the college. The video was then uploaded to the school server for families to watch and donate.

The project has continued at the school. It is a legacy this team has left behind them that has already been taken up by the 2022 Year 11 VCAL cohort – a first for Marymede Catholic College.

These students took to heart the knowledge, skills and attributes they learnt throughout the process of Intermediate VCAL and brought them in at a Senior Level. Creating a unit of kindergarten activities and running them during a global pandemic took determination, resilience and ability. They used impeccable problem-solving and collaboration skills to navigate social-distancing requirements, including delivering hybrid events both online and in person. In doing so, they demonstrated a social awareness of each other and the wider community.

Remi, Charlotte and Alessia confidently pitched this series of nutrition workshops to their teacher, their Deputy Principal, and the local Kindergarten Director. The students met online each week during lockdown to plan activities, write lesson plans and run trials with their classmates. They constantly amended plans, implementing various forms of COVID-19 safety measures, making sure that everyone would be engaged, safe, happy and better informed to make healthier options.

These students showed true teamwork throughout this year, gaining a love for what they do, and expanding the horizons of what can be achieved in a VCAL certificate.

Senior Work Related Skills

Dakota Walker – Wantirna College, Wurundjeri Country

Dakota has demonstrated high-level achievement throughout her two years as a VCAL student. When Dakota enrolled in VET Building and Construction Pre Apprenticeship studies, she knew she was entering a traditionally male-dominated trade. Undeterred, she forged ahead with enthusiasm and was awarded with the Certificate of Excellence in the Mullum Cluster VET Awards for her efforts.

Dakota completed a work placement where she familiarised herself with trade equipment and techniques on several residential worksites. There, she gained valuable technical skills in the building industry and was highly commended by her employer. In VCAL, Dakota developed a business plan for a brand she called ‘Tinker Carvings’. The product concept involved using recycled materials to create unique and personalised carvings, such as signs, wooden spoons and bookmarks. Dakota created a detailed business plan, which was presented to a panel of ‘Sharks’ from the Rowville and Lysterfield Rotary. She then presented this to an audience of 50 community members in an online Enterprise Evening. Dakota was awarded a Silver Award for this work.

Dakota was appointed the Year 12 VCAL captain at Wantirna College and was a passionate voice for the VCAL students. In this capacity, she helped organise major projects, such as the Year 12 formal and yearbook. At all times, Dakota acted as a role model for future VCAL students.

A significant project Dakota completed this year was mapped to the Personal Development Skills strand. She worked with a small team of students to develop a submission for an art mural at a local neighbourhood house, where she met with the clients and developed a design proposal. This proposal was presented to a member of the Knox City Council.

Dakota decided to change direction in her pathway choice and enrolled in the Design Fundamentals course for her VET. After her success in VCAL, she realised that tertiary study was an option for her after school and she set her sights on becoming an Art and Technology teacher.

Beyond school, Dakota has enrolled in the Diploma of Visual Arts at Swinburne Institute of Technology. Furthermore, she completed a work placement with a commercial playground manufacturer. She is a credit to her school and the VCAL certificate.


Teacher Awards

VCAL Teacher Achievement Award – Integrated Program

Alexandra Tsenalidis – Nolrthern College of Arts and Technology, Wurundjeri Country

Alex is a highly experienced, dedicated VCAL and Business Management teacher. Her dedication to her students is palpable. She has worked tirelessly to develop innovative approaches for engagement, always looking to develop her student’s social abilities, emotional maturity, critical thinking, cultural understanding and self-belief.

Alex has collaborated with the Youth Enterprise Hub since its inception in 2018, participating in its professional development and community of practice with other schools from the inner north. She supported the development of the New Economy Enterprise Course and, in 2021, participated and developed the Young Changemaker’s Program and Micro-Enterprise Unit. Both semester-long units were the basis of the New Economy Enterprise Course collaboratively developed with VCAL teachers and other local stakeholders. Alex was able to adapt both units to be fully integrated and mapped against all VCAL Learning Outcomes.

The Young Changemakers is a program developed by the Inner North Community Foundation. Alex trialled the application of the Young Changemakers program to the VCAL curriculum. The Young Changemakers Program segued into the Micro-Enterprise Unit, where the same VCAL students worked to design and develop their own social or environmental innovation with the support of local entrepreneurs. The Youth Enterprise Hub, in collaboration with the Vocational Mentoring Exchange, recruited, screened and trained mentors to guide student teams.

The two teams were NCAT+ and NUP (No to Waste). With the support of their mentors, students developed prototypes, undertook market research and customer development processes, in addition to branding and marketing their product or service. This rigorous approach required students to create a team pitch that students practised in front of their mentors and Youth Enterprise Hub Manager.

NCAT+, entirely designed by the students, is an app for students to connect with each other, with a focus on combating the effects of lockdown. Students can learn about events and book appointments with school wellbeing teams. The school’s principal was so impressed by the project that students and the school are now in discussion about how NCAT+ could be incorporated into the school’s website. NUP, Alex’s second team project, was a fashion waste facility. Students learnt about fast fashion and considered how to develop a collaborative service to collect old jeans to repurpose into housing insulation.

Alex’s work was beyond reproach in getting her students to this point. Her enthusiasm was infectious, which in turn inspired and motivated her students.

VCAL Teacher Award – Program Development

Louise Spiers-Bridge – Fitzroy High School, Wurundjeri Country

Louise is devoted to her students. Moreover, she values the need for real-world learning supported by experienced mentors. These qualities allowed Louise to create a classroom that quickly evolved into a co-creation platform, an environment which provided her students with workplace experience and transferable employment skills.

Louise began participating in the Youth Enterprise Hub Teacher Professional Development and Community of Practice in 2019, and quickly developed an affinity with the small group of pilot schools and teachers in the development of the New Economy Enterprise Course. This was not a school exercise designed to be submitted for teacher approval – Louise’s interpretation of the program provided workplace learning guided by industry experts.

She supported the development of the New Economy Enterprise Course and participated in the development of the Young Changemaker’s Program and the Micro-Enterprise Unit. Both semester long units were the basis of the New Economy Enterprise Course collaboratively developed with VCAL teachers and other local stakeholders. Louise was able to adapt and develop both units mapped against all VCAL Learning Outcomes.

With the support of their mentors, students developed prototypes, undertook market research and customer development processes in addition to branding and marketing of their product or service. This rigorous approach also required students to create a team pitch that students practised in front of their mentors and Youth Enterprise Hub Manager for immediate feedback.

Louise’s students impressed representatives from the Young Changemakers Association with their interview skills, when they asked insightful questions around deliverables and the possible social impact of their work. Her students were also sensitive of where to prioritise funding to effect greatest change.

Student teams developed business ideas based on DIY Computers (to reduce e-waste); a food truck for neurodiverse people to gain hospitality training; and a House Safety App, for people to register and check potential applicants for shared housing arrangements. Another team designed the ‘Mixey Bottle’, a two-sauce bottle manufactured from recycled plastic, with the aim of reducing landfill.

Louise possesses immense skill as a teacher, reflected in the extraordinary development of her students.

VCAL Teacher Award - Team Teaching

Peter Aitken, Carol Baker, Mitch Coombs, Lionel Curling, Anthony Exton, Madeline Halstead, Jane Kightly, Matt McCready, Andrew Pleydell, Dale Roberts and Russell Thorn – Kyabram P–12 College, Yorta Yorta Country

The VCAL teaching team at Kyabram P–12 College all have diverse and complementary skills. Their teamwork and ability have resulted in the successful implementation of an integrated VCAL program across Foundation, Intermediate and Senior levels. In 2021, they delivered the integrated program to 78 students.

The innovative approach means that, at any one time, students can be working on a range of 19 different subjects. Students are neither limited to projects based on the specific staff member available, nor to studying with students in the same certificate level. This allows for projects to be based on student interest and direction.

For example, one project, a commission to build a commando course for a local primary school, was undertaken by all students interested in the project. It involved three Foundation, four Intermediate and two Senior level students. Each group took on responsibilities relevant to their respective certificate level.

In the integrated approach, there is one teacher to every 20 students. However, only nine students were involved in building the commando course. When the building construction specialist arrived to guide this small group, the students were taken aside without disrupting the other 45 students in the larger integrated body – because there were still two teachers to service the larger group. Those not interested in building could focus on their own interests.

Beyond the practical aspect of the projects, by having a combination of specialised staff, students are able to receive timely and specific feedback on their work. This flexible style of delivery also means that all students can select VCE or VET subjects within the traditional timetable without the restriction of them clashing with their VCAL subjects. As such, a student could do VCAL, VCE Physical Education and VET Building and Construction. Again, this allows students to pursue their interests and subjects to help them pursue their career pathways.

This innovative approach also means that students are not restricted to certain days for work placement, allowing them greater opportunities in rural locations with fewer employers.

VCAL Teacher of the Year

Mitch Coombs – Kyabram P–12 College, Yorta Yorta Country

Mitch is the VCAL coordinator at Kyabram P–12 College and teaches all three certificate levels as part of the school’s integrated program. Mitch has developed an innovative integrated VCAL model over the past five years. The program actively uses applied learning principles to facilitate greater student agency and ownership over their work, connecting their work to their desired future pathways. For this, Mitch was recognised with a VCAL Achievement Award in 2020, in the category of Program Development.

In 2021, Mitch’s integrated program was rolled out to a Year 10 cohort to re-engage these students with their education and introduce them to VCAL in general. This program catered to 78 students in Years 10–12 in 2021. Mitch works as both a year level and a program coordinator. In addition to this, he is the leader of the college’s applied learning domain and is responsible for RTO compliance.

As program coordinator, Mitch has organised a variety of school and community engagement projects and activities, including:

  • building a relationship with the local Kyabram Fauna Park to create bird boxes
  • collaborating with the Tongala Primary School to build an obstacle course
  • building and repairing school seating and maintaining school grounds
  • organising local community food donation groups
  • initiating the immensely popular ‘dunk the teacher’ activity at school swimming days
  • planning an intergenerational program with Warramunda Aged Care and student work with the Kyabram Community Garden
  • organising accredited training for students in barista work, first aid, responsible service of alcohol and white card training
  • inviting community groups to speak to students about job interview skills, financial literacy and the impacts of gambling
  • conducting 30-minute feedback sessions with students and their families each term, boasting a 90 per cent attendance rate.

Mitch’s Kyabram P–12 College innovative model has drawn praise as an exemplar from local schools, who seek his advice to develop their own programs.


VCAL Partnerships Award

Kerimuir Neighbourhood House / Mount Evelyn Christian School – Ranges TEC Campus, Wurundjeri Country

Kerrimuir Neighbourhood House (KNH) approached Mount Evelyn Christian School, Ranges TEC Campus to design a new garden for a KNH site. KNH has a wide range of community members engaged with their programs, including senior citizens, people with disabilities and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.

The school’s VCAL students were involved in the initial contact with the KNH manager, with one student liaising over the phone. This proved to be a fantastic opportunity for this student to develop professional communications skills. The VCAL students assisted KNH representatives to apply for a Rotary International grant to fund the project.

During the project, students were able to demonstrate various Work Related Skills and Personal Development Skills outcomes, as well as employability skills. They also managed to complete planning tasks for Literacy Skills outcomes. The students worked hard, including weeding, relocating a potting shed, releveling the site, laying a gravel path with brick borders, planting vegetables, installing rodent netting and planting a fernery and native garden. The project culminated with the installation of an exceptional garden labyrinth, designed from scratch by the students.

Due to social-distancing restrictions in 2021, the VCAL students could not pursue further projects in the community after their work with KNH. The two organisations liaised regarding the possibility of collaborating on new projects later that year. KNH were enthusiastic and suggested creating a series of garden sculptures. The students used the next few weeks to manufacture some large steel gum leaf designs that could be installed free-standing in their garden. They also fabricated a steel garden arch to be installed inside the front gate to support a native creeper and create a colourful, welcoming entrance to KNH.

The students took great pride in their work and KNH was deeply pleased with the results of the partnership. The project exposed many of the students to neighbourhood houses for the first time and helped them to see the valuable place they hold in our communities, especially for minority groups in the community.


VCAA Chair’s Award

Independent Schools Victoria, Wurundjeri Country

The VCAA Chair’s Award recognises outstanding achievement by an individual or an organisation in the delivery and promotion of VCAL in their community or region.

This year’s award is presented to Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) in recognition of outstanding contribution and support towards the delivery and promotion of VCAL and applied learning across Victoria.

ISV provides ongoing support to schools in the delivery of VCAL, including developing and encouraging teachers through professional development and individual support for schools across the state. ISV collaborates with the VCAA on a regular basis, including through the joint provision of professional development activities.


Tim Richardson speaking in an animated and positive way at the event

Tim Richardson, Parliamentary Secretary for Schools, speaking at the 2021 VCAL Achievement Awards ceremony