School to Work program at Trundle Central School a success thanks to John Grady

PROGRAM A SUCCESS: John Grady with his eager students at Trundle Central School and some of their work, a fire bucket and model dozers, from left, Jordan Whalan, Sam Charlton, Miranda Barnes, Laney Cantrell, Max Longhurst and Kiera Stevson. Photo: Christine Little
PROGRAM A SUCCESS: John Grady with his eager students at Trundle Central School and some of their work, a fire bucket and model dozers, from left, Jordan Whalan, Sam Charlton, Miranda Barnes, Laney Cantrell, Max Longhurst and Kiera Stevson. Photo: Christine Little

From a shearer with no formal teaching qualifications to helping students transition into the workforce, John Grady is making a difference to the lives of teenagers at Trundle Central School.

Last year for the first time every student in his School to Work program received an apprenticeship or traineeship.

And this year he has three female students interested in the program, also a first for the school.

After shearing for 27 years and mining for nine, John has returned to his former school - that he left 44 years ago - now as a staff member.

He became Trundle Central's general assistant five years ago, taking care of the school grounds and maintenance.

He now teaches welding twice a week and still works the grounds three days a week.

"I came here originally to help out," he said.

"[Principal John Southon] must have liked what he saw and kept me on."

After just a year Mr Southon and head teacher at the time Lisa Rowlands asked John if he was interested in teaching welding.

John is a self-taught welder and soon found himself teaching Year 9 and 10 students.

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It's a two-year program that involves two weeks' work experience in Year 10.

So far it's had students designing and creating model dozers, seating, fencing, shelving, cricket nets and grandstands for the school, the school's front gate, and recently, fire buckets.

Some have even gone as far as to make a buggy, that's linked with another, fairly new program at the school working with small motors.

COMMITTED: The fine work of former Trundle Central School student Zac Longhurst, who made this large grandstand entirely on his own over 12 months. Photo: Christine Little

COMMITTED: The fine work of former Trundle Central School student Zac Longhurst, who made this large grandstand entirely on his own over 12 months. Photo: Christine Little

"Last year all four Year 10 students were given a job placement," he said proudly.

"[It felt] pretty good...I've had some good kids wanting to learn after watching their siblings do the program.

"Seeing the satisfaction on the kids' faces while learning with their hands and that they've gone and got a job, and haven't needed to go to Year 12, that they've done work experience and the employers have wanted to keep them on - it means I'm doing my job properly."

This year John has six students participating in the School to Work program.

Year 10 student Jordan Whalan said he wanted to try something different when he put his name down for the program.

"It takes us out of the classroom and it's practical, it's stuff we can do at home," he said.

"And we're learning new skills."

John said the job was really rewarding and "never in his wildest dreams" did he ever think he'd turn to teaching.

"The students do it all themselves," he said.

Former student Zac Longhurst, big brother to current student Max Longhurst, made the large grandstand two years ago that takes pride of place besides the school's oval.

"It took him all year to make it and he did it on his own," John said.

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