A new strategy developed by the NSW Police Commissioner is connecting disengaged young people to workplace opportunities. The program is already having a significant impact in this region.
DISENGAGED youth across the region are adopting a new outlook on learning and looking at brighter futures thanks to a program targeting teenagers at risk.
RISEUP, a program initiated by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, was launched just on 12 months ago but is already having an impact at a regional level.
RISEUP incorporates jobs-ready programs, mentoring and vocational training for at-risk teenagers, aiming to have young people re-engage with school and the community and, in some cases, divert them from the risk of criminal activity.
Commissioner Fuller is the first police commissioner in 80 years to list youth as their top priority - and a year on, those on the ground say the program is already kicking goals.
Chief Inspector Glenn Cogdell, who holds the youth and crime prevention portfolio for the Chifley District, said the program is all about giving young people the connections they need.
"The PCYC offers programs which are not only engaging young people in their education, but giving them workplace training and life skills," he said.
This an excellent program, providing high school students with a step up in obtaining meaningful employment opportunities.Chief Inspector Glenn Cogdell
He said RISEUP is all about "connecting young people facing challenges at home, school or in the community with support services and employment opportunities".
While the program is in its infancy, Chief Inspector Cogdell said they are already seeing strong evidence of success, and the feedback from students is good.
"This an excellent program, providing high school students with a step up in obtaining meaningful employment opportunities," he said.
It was a sentiment shared by Central West Police District's acting Inspector Vincent Robinson, who said having students work closely with the police gives them an opportunity to build positive relationships with them in the community.
"It's really about breaking down barriers," he said.
Denison College of Secondary Education Bathurst Campus principal Ken Barwick is another to sing the praises of the program.
He's just had 11 students from his school complete the Fit to Learn program and said the response has been nothing short of amazing.
"This is the feedback I was getting every Tuesday afternoon: one of the kids would walk into my office [after attending the PCYC] and thank me for giving them the opportunity to attend that week," he said.
"I'd ask them what they were getting out of it and they said 'a plan' [for their future].
"They'd say 'we've got our first-aid, our white card, and resume ready to go'."
They all now have that mindset about what they want to achieve and how they are going to do it.Denison College of Secondary Education Bathurst Campus principal Ken Barwick
Mr Barwick said being part of the program changed the perspective of the students, who were now re-engaged and ready to build on their experience.
"They're talking about looking for work experience, and talking about looking for casual work [as a result of the program]."
Mr Barwick, who as a young student was a graduate of PCYC programs himself, said the program was enough to ignite a spark in each student to fulfil their future dreams.
"They all now have that mindset about what they want to achieve and how they are going to do it," he said.
He also said people need to get past the idea that the PCYC only deals with 'naughty kids'.
"The PCYC deals with all kinds of kids, and they have really great programs that are beneficial to all students," he said.
Skills to bring into workforce
IN Orange, the PCYC offers Fit for Life on Wednesday mornings to a group of senior primary school girls.
Manager Neil Hummerston said the group attends every week without fail, "so they must really enjoy it".
"They play sport, have some breakfast and a chat and then get dropped off to school," he said.
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"We've got a couple of police we have on hand and the girls can talk to them about anything that's happening and it's a nice, relaxed, informal atmosphere."
Mr Hummerston said the best thing about the program is the girls get the chance to do something they normally wouldn't do.
Likewise with the club's Fit for Work, Mr Hummerston said participants get the chance to complete first-aid certificates, white cards and other qualifications they may otherwise not achieve.
We've got a couple of police we have on hand and the girls can talk to them about anything that's happening and it's a nice, relaxed, informal atmosphere.Orange PCYC manager Neil Hummerston
"They can also do their Certificate 1 in Retail, and they learn other skills like problem solving which they can then take into the workforce," he said.
Mr Hummerston said the Orange PCYC ran its Fit For Work in term one, and is running a second class in term four.
He said one of the best things to come out of the class was the relationship the participants had maintained with the club, even though they had completed the program.
"They'll pop in and say hi, or if they need some help with something, we're here to give them assistance," he said.
The temptation's been taken away
DUBBO PCYC manager Mark Nuttall said the club runs three programs: a Friday night diversionary program; the Fit for Life breakfast club; and Fit for Work, a program that aims to engage young people in their education and get them work ready.
He said the Friday night program was run closely with Orana Police District, with the aim of keeping kids off the street.
Every Friday night, more than 80 kids attend the program.
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"They come in here and play TV games, we feed them, and at the end of the night we bus them home," he said.
He said the program has had a dramatic effect on reducing youth crime.
"When they're here, the trouble or temptation isn't there."
It's about strengthening the relationships between kids and the police.Dubbo PCYC manager Mark Nuttall
Asked if the kids enjoy it, he said "they keep coming back".
He said the kids like the fact it's safe and secure and "they develop great mateships here".
He said one of the major advantages of the program was kids were engaged and weren't out roaming the streets or finding ways to get themselves into any trouble.
"But it's more than that, it's about strengthening the relationships between kids and the police," Mr Nuttall said.
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He said the club's Fit for Work program had run twice this year and the club itself had employed four of the graduates.
"We've got one of the boys working in the gym and hired three others to work up until Christmas," he said.
"It's great. They come on Friday nights and help us mentor the other kids and they can see, they've done the program, and here they are with a job."
We pick them up, get them doing some physical activity, give them some breakfast and get them to school.Dubbo PCYC manager Mark Nuttall
Similarly, of the club's first Fit for Work program, six of the graduates secured jobs in the community.
Mr Nuttall said the club's Fit for Life breakfast program was also helping keep kids engaged.
"It gets them into the routine of going to school," he said.
"We pick them up, get them doing some physical activity, give them some breakfast and get them to school."
He said the program has an early start, but the kids are still keen and show up week after week.
"While it's not as bad as Bathurst, winters here are still not pleasant, but they still get up at six in the morning to be part of the program, which I think says it all - they want to be part of it," he said.
He said at the end of the day, the relationships between the young people and the police are improving as a result of these programs, which is the key to long-term change.
"In the future, five, six, seven years down the track, what was once a disconnect has been alleviated and what a chance that is for us," he said.
"It's a generational shift in the mindset."
So what are the RISEUP programs?
Fit for Life: Intervention program for young people aged 10-17 facing challenges at home, at school or in the community. The program includes a morning fitness session, breakfast and transport to school.
Fit for Work: A holistic program designed to address a young person's disengagement from family, education and community and get them into employment. It's a 10-week program for 15 to 17-year-olds looking at life skills, employment certificates and work experience.
Fit for Change: Aims to prevent re-offending in young people aged 12 to 17. Run over nine weeks, the program addresses specific crime issues identified within each police area command. It incorporates a PCYC Job Ready skills course.
Fit to Learn: An eight-week program designed to re-engage young people aged four to 17 with the education system.
Fit Together: Aims to instil confidence and self-esteem in young Indigenous people, reduce a risk of re-offending and establish positive relationships with police.
Fit to Strive: Crime prevention program for young people eight to 13. Focuses on decision making, values, problem solving and resilience. The program targets young people with multiple risk factors.
Fit for Home: Aims to break the cycle of domestic and family violence. For young people aged 12 to 17, the program has separate victim and offender streams, which run over a 10-week period.
Fit for Service: Helps young people with an interest in pursuing a career in policing, defence or the emergency services. Mentors help participants as well as provide a pathway into the industries.
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