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New strategy helps at-risk teenagers succeed at university

Victoria University (VU) has launched its 2011 youth strategy to better support, train and guide the thousands of young people aged 15-19 without Year 12 or its equivalent who study at the University.

Youth Smart builds on the University's previous youth strategy, but for the first time, the faculties involved in training these students "" Workforce Development, Technical and Trades Innovation, and VU College "" are coordinating their resources and pooling the $3.5 million in special funding for support programs that the students attract.

The students are enrolled in more than 3,500 courses across some 40 areas. They range from VU students completing a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) at Harvester Technical College in Sunshine, to those studying trades such as boatbuilding, hairdressing, carpentry, or childcare through on-campus pre-apprenticeships or traineeships.

Associate Director, Youth, Jo van Son said the strategy aims to create individual learning plans that guide the students through their courses while offering support to staff to improve retention and completion rates. 

Newly appointed retention officers and Youth Smart coordinators work with students to identify barriers and develop strategies to overcome them. They can also provide referrals to welfare agencies when necessary.

"Some students might have issues around fees, or finding timely career advice, or they may have problems with something as simple as getting out of bed on time," van Son said.

Claudia Abakah, one of the retention officers, said a key to the strategy is getting to know the students, understand their goals, and offering programs that fit them best.

"I've personally escorted students to their classes to make sure they go and that they're in the right place," she said. "If they're not, we work with them to find something better."

The strategy embeds literacy and numeracy training, as well as careers education into the curriculum. The University's Work Education Research Centre (WERC) is collaborating to measure student and teacher satisfaction with the new strategy.

Media Contact:
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Communications Officer,
Marketing and Communications Department,
Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 5487 or Mobile: 0403 556 001.

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