A record 500 students graduated from the NRL School to Work program across NSW, Queensland and Victoria in 2020 despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, 2500 students have finished year 12 with the aid of School to Work since its inception in 2012. The program helps Indigenous participants transition into meaningful work or tertiary education.
With the Australian Government committed to funding School to Work until 2023, program manager Shaun Humphries said the initiative "continues to gain momentum every year".
"Despite the challenges we faced in 2020 a record number of students – 500 – still graduated which is a huge achievement," Humphries said.
"It is also pleasing to see that the Australian government has acknowledged the individualised one-on-one mentoring support the program offers for Indigenous students and significant positive traction we are achieving.
"In this current contract we will support 1,000 participants across the three states. Business Development Officers have been appointed to actively work with key stakeholders in the industry to continue to promote diverse career pathways available to young Indigenous people."
Humphries said the Bennelong Cup, an annual day of touch football and lunch where S2W graduates mingle with prospective employers and former NRL legends, had opened up new opportunities.
"One target sector has been the facilities management industry which is one of the biggest employment areas in the country," he said.
"The Bennelong Cup, run by Bennelong Energy Services, has helped us reach this industry and access some of the country’s largest employers including BGIS, CBRE and Cushman Wakefield.
"Following participation in the Bennelong Cup, fifteen students have been placed in meaningful careers including electrical, plumbing, fire and sprinkler technicians and carpentry trades.
"It is great to see that students have been able to establish themselves in career pathways that not only support them to develop their career aspirations but provide access to resources that help to establish successful long-term careers."
The 2021 Bennelong Cup day will be held on February 26 at Randwick Army Barracks, with the likes of Steve Menzies and Cliff Lyons to play amongst 14 touch football teams before lunch at Souths Juniors.
"This is the fourth year we will host in collaboration with the NRL School to Work team two events (touch football game and luncheon) to help the 2020 graduates find employment opportunities," said Gaven Sheehan, director at Bennelong Energy Services.
"By placing business leaders and students together in a relaxed social environment, barriers are broken down. The touch football component also includes former Indigenous NRL stars.
"Finding opportunities for the next generation of tradespeople for the facilities management industry is an important part of its longevity.
"Our business has employed four from the NRL School to Work program which has been of mutual benefit to our 30-plus workforce. The ability to mix with students from various tribes has enabled our staff to gain a greater appreciation of our Indigenous heritage."