Dream Thinkers inspiring primary students

Country University Centre (CUC) Far West has designed an innovative, hands-on, and engaging program for Year 5 and 6 students, called Dream Thinkers Far West.

The five-week program will see employees head into Alma and Burke Ward Public Schools in Term 1, as it asks students to look at different study and career opportunities.

CUC Far West Education Programs Coordinator and Dream Thinkers Far West Program Lead, Julian Harvey-Lim, told us the design and development of the program was extensive, though through community consultation some years back, feedback reinforced exposure to higher education learning and career development programs was limited for primary school students.

“It was born out of an idea that we really wanted to build the aspirations of young people at an earlier age,” Mr Harvey-Lim told the Barrier Truth.

“Our experience of widening participation activities and career and study aspiration activities and programs that we’ve run in the past have only gone into high schools. Historically, we’ve only worked with that Year 9 to 12 age bracket. You usually talk to students at that age and they either already have an idea of what they want to do, or they have no idea of what they want to do.

“Research also shows that aspiration building happens at an earlier age, so around that Year 5 and 6 cohort. That’s why we’re targeting that age because it is so important to build those aspirations earlier, particularly here in Broken Hill.”

Partnering with Charles Sturt University, Macquarie University, and the University of Woolongong to create the bespoke program, Dream Thinkers Far West starts by looking at identifying students’ interests, skills, and strengths to then link that to potential opportunities for them in the future.

Part of a bigger initiative called the Eastern Australian Regional University Centre Partnership that comes from federal government funding, the aim is to form partnerships between regional university centres, Country University Centres, and eastern Australian universities.

“For us, it’s been it’s been an amazing experience to be able to connect with these universities,” Mr Harvey-Lim said.

“They’ve brought some really great resources and ideas. The partnership has been a great opportunity for us to learn and to make sure that this program is not just ours, but a collective piece of work, which has been really good.”

The first four weeks of the program are delivered in classrooms and include activities such as building a profile – both current and future, connecting with industry professionals, and getting an understanding of people who live and work in town. Job exploration through virtual reality headsets also allows students to explore different career opportunities to create a future dream job.

A focus on higher education and learning, allowing students to link education as a big connector to not only their interests, skills, and strengths, but also future jobs is another big area CUC Far West is looking at in a bid to showcase education as a huge opportunity leading to further prospects.

The program culminates in an excursion around Broken Hill, visiting five different stakeholder organisations around town – who will be part of the program during and also after it runs – with the aim to further showcase and expose young people to local opportunities.

“The two biggest industries in Broken Hill are mining and health, and the regional young people probably don’t have as many opportunities as their metropolitan counterparts in terms of being exposed and having careers and study pathways showcased to them throughout their lives,” Mr Harvey-Lim said.

“It’s definitely very important to get to these young people at a younger age, and hopefully the outcomes speak for themselves. Our aim is to deliver it to everyone in Broken Hill.”

Mr Harvey-Lim says Dream Thinkers Far West will head into Alma and Burke Ward Public Schools in Term 1 before spending Term 2 evaluating and reflecting upon the delivery of the program. He says there are dates also locked in with Railwaytown Public School for Term 3, and the Dream Thinkers are looking at further dates for other schools, including Menindee and Wilcannia Central Schools.

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