North Coast students take flight

Last December, 19 lucky students from EPPP schools got a taste of careers in aviation at the first ever Careers Expo Day at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport.

18 February 2021
Small plane on runway outside hangar
Image: EPPP students inspecting the cockpit

12 months in the making, and the brainchild of Mullumbimby High School Careers Adviser Vanessa Perrin, the Aviation Careers Expo was a team effort from the NSW Department of Education and the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport.

The 19 students from EPPP schools in Alstonville, Wollumbin, Mullumbimby and Ballina enjoyed an informative and interactive showcase of aviation careers from some major players in the industry, including the Australian Defence Force, Avisure, White Star Aviation, Oceania Aviation, Air Services Australia and Landrum Brown.

“The students selected for the expo had all shown a genuine interest in aviation as a career pathway, so it was great to be able to give them such an immersive introduction to the industry,” says Vanessa Perrin.

Students were able to meet and listen to industry professionals, and take part in some practical demonstrations. Among other things, the students gained a good understanding of all the various careers on offer in aviation, had a look around the cockpits of various planes, and even learned a thing or two about ‘bird strikes,’ a rare but frightening prospect for pilots.

“The day was a great success, with the kids learning a lot about the industry as well as some really interesting training opportunities,” says Vanessa.
Two students looking on as fire engine sprays path with water
Image: Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting Service were an expo partner

It was also a great success from an organisational point of view. The Aviation Careers Expo shows what’s possible when the EPPP, schools and industry work together to promote vocational career pathways. What began with Vanessa contacting Airport Manager Julie Stewart about the possibility of students doing work experience at the airport quickly evolved into something much bigger.

Damon McCarthy, the Regional Industry Education Officer for Training Services NSW, got involved and facilitated a collaborative meeting where the initial plan was hatched. From there, it was a case of getting industry partners and TAFE NSW Northern Rivers on board. Julie was instrumental in achieving this, brokering agreements with a range of partners from across the airport to participate in the day. Meanwhile, Deborah Page-Thomas, the Head Teacher-Careers for the Ballina cluster, took control of the promotional side of things.

“We developed aviation-themed promotional materials that were circulated to the schools in the Ballina cluster and even provided travel assistance to make sure that the students who wanted to attend the expo could do so,” says Deborah.

In the end, it wasn’t just the students who went home smiling. Everyone who participated got a lot out of the day and there are hopes that last year’s expo won’t be the last.

  • Student engagement and participation
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