Seniors teach young the tricks of their trades

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Seven local seniors aged up to 80 years are sharing their life experience and professional knowledge with teenagers training to become tradespeople.

Seniors Supporting Juniors is Challenger TAFE’s new mentoring program in which retired or semi-retired tradespeople work alongside students to give them a better understanding of their trade and help them complete their training.

The program began with one volunteer at the Peel campus in March this year. Since then, six more seniors between 60 and 80 years of age have joined the program to act as mentors to metals, construction and automotive pre-apprentices, many of whom are Mandurah Senior College students.

Challenger TAFE’s program coordinator Dorothy Maley said that as the program grew, the benefits for both the students and mentors were becoming clearer.

“The students are gaining valuable skills, support and friendship from the mentors while the mentors get so much out of contributing to the students’ learning,” Dorothy said.

“The mentors share their expertise in metals, construction, carpentry and automotive mechanics by spending between four and 15 hours each week with several of the students. Their presence, however, really helps the whole class.

“Many of the students have had no experience in a workshop environment, but are gaining confidence through the positive feedback they receive from their mentors.”

Seventy-one year-old mentor Joe Kammerer, a fitter and turner by trade, said he was enjoying passing on his 20 years of experience as a workshop foreman.

“There are many volunteer opportunities for retirees, but I chose this because I really feel that I am able to help by sharing my knowledge with the younger generation,” Joe said.

“It’s especially rewarding when the students start to trust in your abilities and come to you for advice on how to go about a project.”

Seniors Supporting Juniors is supported by the City of Mandurah and the Peel Development Commission and has been helped by Alcoa Australia, which provided funds for protective work clothing for the mentors.

Dorothy said more volunteers were needed for the program.

“If you have experience in the metals, construction or automotive industries and can spare about four hours a week, you will play a big part in helping young people achieve their career goals while actively contributing to your community,” she said.

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