THE registers were ringing as a new mini supermarket simulation opened at Carenne School on Tuesday morning.
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A number of weeks in the making, the Mini Woolworths store, called Carenne Fresh Food, aims to develop literacy, numeracy and social skills among students as well as give them experience in what it is like to be in the workforce.
"Our school motto is, in part, 'towards independence'," Carenne assistant principal Louise Smith said during the formalities before Tuesday's official opening.
"And so, from the very first day our students start here, our aim is to develop those skills that will enable each student to live their life as independently as possible beyond school life.
"Having a facility such as Carenne Fresh Food supermarket provides our students with a unique opportunity to further develop their independence.
"I can't wait to go down to the local Woolies and to be served by one of our amazing Carenne students - a goal now made all the more achievable by having such an exciting new learning space."
The mini store - which has real registers, shelving, products, ticketing and uniforms, but where the money is not real - has been built in what was part of the school's gross motor gym.
"We built a wall [to separate the store from the gym], ceiling, air-con and lights," principal Jane Crosland said.
Guests at Carenne on Tuesday included Woolworths Group general manager of technology, enterprise operations and Mini Woolies Sarah Corey and Fujitsu Australia Limited's head of industry retail Clare Burden.
A number of staff from Woolworths Bathurst (who helped train the Carenne students on how to use the registers) and Big W Bathurst also attended.
The mini store in Bathurst is Woolworths' 25th in various locations.
"Having a Mini Woolies will give our students the opportunity to practise and learn new skills in a familiar setting," Ms Crosland said.
"Working with our staff, some of the students who experience a great deal of anxiety will have the opportunity to practise their work skills in an open employment setting, which we have found can often lead to greater success and the attainment of work education learning goals.
"Students will be able to develop their numeracy and literacy capabilities by engaging with everyday supermarket tasks such as organising a shopping list, counting products, stocking shelves and helping at checkout.
"And for some students who don't get the opportunity to shop for themselves, to actually be able to do that in the Mini Woolies store will further develop their social, emotional and independence skills."
Woolworths says the Mini Woolies site was brought to life over the last few weeks through a partnership with the Woolworths Technology team, Woolworths Construction team and Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand.
The company says team members from Woolworths Bathurst also helped stock shelves ahead of the store opening.
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Woolworths Group's Ms Corey said the skills students learn in their new Mini Woolies "will equip them with the confidence and knowledge of retail operations in an exciting way, from the perspective of both a customer and a team member".
Member for Bathurst and Deputy Premier Paul Toole, meanwhile, said the Mini Woolies experience is a great addition to the region.
"This program is allowing students to learn life skills that will assist them with their transition to adulthood," he said.
"It is fantastic to see a Mini Woolies set up in regional NSW so that students are receiving the same opportunities as those closer to the city.
"I hope the skills students learn throughout this program will empower them to seek employment and gain further independence."
After the formalities were over on Tuesday morning, Carenne students took to the registers to show what they had learned.
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