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Police helping to create employment pathways for region’s youth | The Courier

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Moorabool Police are running a new program to help young people receive valuable training to gain employment. When Leading Senior Constable Jim Ross became the Youth Resource Officer in Moorabool, he had a keen interest in restarting the Blue Light program. While the resurgence of the program 14 years ago was widely popular, he has long wanted to expand it to be more than discos for primary school-aged children. And now he is. “We had been exploring various ideas to expand the branch,” Leading Senior Constable Ross said, when the perfect idea came to light that was “doable” and “easy” to get off the ground. WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE After discovering that Moorabool Shire was exploring the idea of putting young people through a barista program, Leading Senior Constable Ross realised this was something that the Bacchus Marsh Blue Light program could achieve. The program, called Barista Blue, will give young people an opportunity to gain formal training and experience in hospitality to make them “job-ready”. About 30 young people from Moorabool Shire will be chosen to participate in the fully-funded basic barista course at T.M.G College in West Melbourne. But Leading Senior Constable Ross said he thought the program could achieve more than simply the barista course – he wanted the young people to be given real-world experience in hospitality to boost their employment prospects. “I thought it would add more value to the course if they do a few hours of work experience and get exposure to working in a cafe,” he said. When he went across to grab his usual coffee one morning, Leading Senior Constable Ross approached his local cafe in Bacchus Marsh – Lola’s Cafe and Espresso Bar- and asked if they would be interested in being involved in the program. Asked if they would be happy to allow about 30 young people through their doors for work experience, the owner jumped on board with the idea. As such, the young people, aged between 15 and 17, will be taken to Melbourne in small groups of about six people. They will then be invited to volunteer four hours of their time to gain work experience at the cafe after participating in the course – taking out meals, clearing tables, doing dishes, making milkshakes and thick shakes and even trying their hands at the coffee machine. Owner Jenny Colley said she opted to be involved because it was a “fantastic” project for the community and its young people. “It’s good to give young kids a chance to come and try out what it’s like working at a cafe,” Ms Colley said. Those who undertake work experience could possibly be employed down the track, or she could be a reference for them when applying for another job. In addition to the barista course being free for the chosen youth to undertake, transport costs to travel there and back will be paid for as well. The youth will be accompanied down to Melbourne by a number of police members and council officers. “It’s also an opportunity for some of these young people, who may never have used the Myki system of public transport before, to do so and navigate around Melbourne,” he said. Leading Senior Constable Ross said Blue Light was being supported in the Barista Blue project by various partners, so it was more than a police program – it was shaping up to be a really fantastic community project to boost youth engagement and employment. It is being supported by the cafe, Professionals Arbee Real Estate, Moorabool Shire Council and Community Bank Bacchus Marsh. “It is an easy thing for us to do and we’ve got support behind us to ensure it’s sustainable for some time,” Leading Senior Constable Ross said. He said the program would give some young people a positive opportunity they might not otherwise receive. “Giving some young people the opportunity to do the formal training component and follow it up with a few hours of work experience might give them an opportunity they might not normally have. “We recognise that there are young people knocking on doors to get a job but they don’t have the experience. This will help young people to get jobs. “It is something we can do to help young people to move forward in their lives and get an opportunity that they might not otherwise.” Acting Inspector Ben Young added that the program was a “great initiative” and that it had received “considerable support”. “We know with impacts from the recent pandemic that obtaining employment is becoming increasingly difficult and competitive. “Barista Blue focuses on recognising that and providing opportunity to young people whilst supporting local businesses with training employees,” Acting Inspector Young said. He added that the program built on the long-lasting positive relationship that Blue Light had fostered between police and youth. “I am really looking to meeting the successful youth at the launch in March,” he said. It is planned for the program to be hosted again next year, with those involved already talking about how the project could be expanded. “We’ve been wanting to expand Blue Light into other areas but there are only so many volunteers. So this is a great opportunity to expand while providing for young people as well,” Leading Senior Constable Ross said. “The beauty is that it has such much scope. We are already talking about how we could take [youth] to do other courses like food handlers, first aid or responsible service of alcohol. “But we need to crawl before we walk so we will get this right and move forward from there to give young people fantastic opportunities.” Applications to participate in Barista Blue close on March 1 and Leading Senior Constable Ross encouraged any youth in Moorabool Shire who are aged between 15 and 17 to apply. To apply, email answers along with your name, date of birth, address and phone number and responses to why you wish to participate in the project and what you do for your community to [email protected] It can also be handed into Bacchus Marsh Police Station. WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW SUBSCRIBE BELOW

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