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Over 2,000 students complete NRL School To Work program

The NRL's School to Work program continues to kick major milestones with over 2,000 students completing the Indigenous initiative.

This year was also its biggest cohort yet with over 450 students finishing their HSC, attaining a 96 per cent achievement rate. More than 500 students will start Year 12 in 2020 via the program across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

Funded by the Federal government, the NRL School to Work program is an Indigenous education and employment initiative that started in 2012 with funding committed until the end of 2020.

Shaun Humphries, NRL School to Work Program Manager, comments, "Since inception we have continued to kick major milestones. It is a significant achievement to assist over 2,000 students and to exceed over 450 participating in the program this year. The 96 per cent achievement rate is also impressive. The success of the program has been multi-layered including helping the students find a school placement, assisting with the critical decision-making phase of their schooling through to transitioning into the workplace.

"More than 90 per cent of all participants have either commenced employment or further education since program inception. Feedback received from students, parents, teachers and employers has been tremendous. In addition, the program has the resources and support of the NRL and its clubs to engage and inspire its participants to achieve and set a standard of excellence."

He added, "The rugby league community has played an integral role in encouraging young Indigenous Australians to complete their schooling and transition into further education or employment. Eleven of the NRL clubs assist the program."

In 2017, the overall achievement rate for Indigenous students nationally was 83.2 per cent, according to the Federal government's Close the Gap report.

"We are focused on creating additional employment opportunities for students and have turned our attention to facilities management companies and project managers to become involved in the program. These industries employ thousands of people across a wide range of building sites including stadiums, power facilities and commercial office towers," Mr Humphries continued.

"These sectors have already employed several students graduating from the program and we hope to continue to leverage off existing relationships to further extend our reach to provide a supportive and culturally safe working environment. This year, five of the largest facilities management and project management companies in Australia including CBRE, BGIS, Cushman Wakefield, Evolve FM and Hutchison Builders will again participate in the program as well as smaller contractors including Bennelong Energy Services."

Gaven Sheehan, Director at Bennelong Energy Services, a contractor business to the facilities management industry has employed several students participating in the NRL School to Work program. He comments, "It is important to grow our next generation of tradespeople and facilities management staff. The facilities management industry is one of the fastest growing and provides numerous employment opportunities for students.

"My company is very proud of what we have achieved by guiding three Indigenous students into their third and fourth-year apprenticeships. It has been a mutually beneficial relationship that has been embraced by our 30 plus workplace who have enjoyed the opportunity to explore and understand Indigenous culture."

He added, "For the third year running we will also host in collaboration with the NRL School to Work team two events to celebrate the success of the program in 2019 and match students with potential employers from the facilities management sector. The aim is to secure several employment opportunities for 2019 graduates in a relaxed social environment."

The events will be held on 14 February 2020. A number of former and current NRL players including Cliff Lyons, Steve Menzies and Greg Inglis will lead 12 touch football teams at Randwick Barracks (8.30am) vying for the Bennelong Cup, followed by lunch at Souths Juniors main auditorium in Randwick (1pm). Participants in the 2019 program will share their personal stories at the lunch event. Funds will also be raised for two Indigenous charities – Cowboys House and Souths Cares.