Learning Through Lunch goes west

When: 14 Jul 2022

“I give this meal a 15 out of 10!” beamed a happy year 6 student after an exciting university tour and two-course lunch – an experience courtesy of Ardoch’s ‘Learning Through Lunch’ program.

As part of the Victorian Government’s initiative to build aspiration in regional areas, Ardoch has expanded its most popular pathways program into more towns in rural western Victoria.

Primary school students in and around Horsham in Victoria’s far west were the recent beneficiaries of this unique educational program where they were treated to a tour of Federation University’s Horsham campus and introduced to a range of courses. Students marveled at the purpose-built workshops for plumbing, electrical and mechanics trades and some schools were even given the opportunity to learn CPR on practice dummies in the nursing classroom.

As they toured the campus, students expressed their interest in pursuing careers in the arts, trades and animal welfare, with many changing their career choices multiple times over the course of the tour as different options were presented.

“The tour inspired me to become a nurse,” shared one student later.

“Exploring the TAFE building was very interesting and opened our eyes to different opportunities,” shared another.

Regional aspirations given a boost

While all schools have been heavily impacted by the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, regional schools have been hit especially hard. Teacher shortages are an ongoing issue with the Victorian Government recently offering teachers $700 a day to fill gaps in regional schools across the state.

This shortage, along with limited access to the broad experiences and resources advantaged schools in metropolitan areas have access to, are placing children in rural towns at an educational disadvantage.

The government initiative to enhance and support the learning, transition and aspirational mindset of rural and regional students in Victorian government schools, comes at an important time. Ardoch’s Learning Through Lunch program is helping to do just that.

“Learning Through Lunch gives children an opportunity to imagine different future pathways all while trying new foods through a fine dining experience and building confidence through conversations with volunteers from a range of workforces,” says Megan Newcomb, Ardoch Education Partnerships Coordinator for regional Victoria.

“It was great to hear the students asking questions about what courses they could do at Federation University. Many had an idea of what they wanted to do for a career but seeing the offering of courses helped them identify how they could get there. It was really encouraging.”

The Horsham visit involved partnerships with Federation University and social enterprise, Centre for Participation, who provided the two-course meal the children were treated to after their campus tour. Centre for Participation’s on-campus café provides training in the hospitality industry for people on the NDIS (national disability insurance scheme) and new Australians to gain experience and independence.

Over the meal, students sat with an adult volunteer professional and were given the chance to ask career questions and practice talking with adults.

“The highlight for me was seeing an extremely shy girl come completely out of her shell,” shared one of the volunteers. “By the end of the meal she couldn’t stop talking. I hope she thinks of this experience the next time she feels shy, and it gives her the courage to speak up.”

Building on youth skills and dialogue

Friday, 15 July is World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) with the theme ‘Transforming youth skills for the future’. With the intention of celebrating the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, WYSD has created opportunities for dialogue between young people, technical and vocation education and training institutions, employers and more.

As one of Ardoch’s most popular programs, Learning Through Lunch is providing an experiential learning opportunity for students in under resourced and/or disadvantaged communities to start this dialogue. It encourages children and young people to not only dream big but to see a pathway to making their dreams come true.

The experience of sitting down to a fine dining lunch and being served a two-course meal with an adult mentor is one many will never forget. Children and young people are made to feel important and valued, served food and have their burning questions answered. It is not only an opportunity for them to think about who they may become as an adult but to also be treated as one.

All children deserve to realise their potential through full participation in education, but in many regional areas, opportunities can remain limited due to population size and resources. Programs such as Learning Through Lunch provide valuable experiences that help children expand their career aspirations and expectations for their future rather than limiting them.

“The Learning Through Lunch excursion was an excellent opportunity for students to learn about educational pathways and opportunities after secondary college,” said teacher, Garry after the experience.

The Horsham programs are the first of many to be delivered in various regional towns across Victoria.

Learn more about Ardoch’s Pathways Beyond School programs, or contact us to see how you or your school can participate.