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Nicholas

Nicholas Wyman

Year of Award: 2012 Award State: Victoria Education > Secondary
The Park Family Churchill Fellowship to study new approaches to engage young Australians in skilled careers - Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, UK
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Nicholas Wyman’s Park Family Churchill Fellowship enabled him to explore new approaches to engage young Australians in skilled careers. In 2012 he reviewed post-secondary options in six countries: Australia, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States. Nicholas’ journey showed him how to address youth unemployment with a mixture of ideology and practical measures, which allow young people to benefit from the mentorship of industry workers and industry leaders.

When we met towards the end of 2014 in Melbourne’s Westin Hotel, Nicholas said he was motivated by the burning question: ‘How are we allowing masses of young people to leave school with very little direction, and often with a lack of basic literacy and numeracy? We need to do something about that.’ He was also concerned about the growing skills gap in Australia where many employers were reporting challenges in attracting suitably trained people to join their organisations.

In Australia (at December 2013) the unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent, but the teenage full-time unemployment rate was about five times that. Nicholas pointed out that the unemployment rate can be misleading. For a truer indication of the situation some people are now looking at the Not in Education, Employment or Training (the N.E.E.T.) rate.

In Germany and Switzerland apprenticeships are still held in high regard, but the skills learned through them must be constantly updated to include technological change. Nicholas recommended a review of the Australian apprenticeship system, and making them more closely aligned with the current and future skills needs of business and industry.

‘Germany believes that vocational education is the cornerstone to economic prosperity,’ Nicholas said. ‘Modern industry is the path that Germany and Switzerland have followed and it’s this that has kept their economies buoyant.’

It was not, however, an apprenticeship program that captured Nicholas’ imagination, but a re-work of ‘traditional’ high school.

Nicholas was impressed with New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), founded in 2011 by IBM and City University of New York. The model provides an integrated high school and two-year college curriculum with a focus on science, technology, engineering and maths, while also teaching workplace skills such as team-work and problem solving. Nicholas would go on to recommend in his final Churchill report that a P-TECH style model could be transitioned in Australia.

On return from his Fellowship, he set about mustering support to turn this recommendation into reality. Having hosted several business roundtables after his Fellowship, Nicholas returned to New York City to escort the Australian Prime Minister on a tour of the first P-TECH school.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, liked what he saw. By October, the model had been formally adopted for a pilot by the Australian Government in the roll-out of the schools. The first schools will open in 2016 with a plan to scale up the model nation-wide.

Nicholas Wyman wanted to do something to engage Australian high school students before they became a statistic, failing to make the transition from school to work. The Park Family Churchill Fellowship enabled him to go overseas to find a program that was making a difference, forge relationships and go on to adapt core elements to Australian conditions.

Nicholas’ book, 'Job U – How to find wealth and success by developing the skills companies actually need' was published by Penguin Random House in 2015. Nicholas Wyman is a fine example of the ripple effect that one Churchill Fellowship can have on a section of Australian society such as young adults and their employment prospects, helping many of them to learn skills, earn a living and grow into confident and productive members of Australian society.

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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