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Cody thrives in SchoolTech

For Cody Graham, the opportunity to do high school differently has changed his life.

I am a proud Aboriginal man from Palm Island and I knew that enrolling in SchoolTech would have a huge impact on my life. SchoolTech was recommended to me by the Clontarf Foundation which helps young Indigenous men to attend school, finish Year 12 and enter employment. While I was in Year 10, Clontarf recognised that I was struggling to adapt to the traditional school environment, but noticed I achieved in the workplace and with hands-on learning subjects.

Through SchoolTech, I get the chance to participate in work and trade opportunities while completing Year 11 and 12. This structure definitely suits me better than five days straight in a classroom! SchoolTech gives me the chance to gain a Queensland Certificate of Education and two qualifications of my choice. I have completed a Certificate II in Engineering Pathways MEM20413 and I am also studying a Certificate II in Maritime Operations (Coxswain Grade 1 Near Coastal) MAR20318.

Studying engineering at the TAFE Queensland Cairns campus was great. The teachers were good and I got to use excellent equipment. I really enjoyed welding and the chance to make a firepit. The course gave me the opportunity to try stick, tig and mig welding. With the coxswain course, there is so much to learn, it's more than just driving boats. I undertake maritime training at the Great Barrier Reef International Marine College which has a boat simulator, a fire simulator, navigation and radio rooms, a workshop for us to pull outboard motors apart and a pool where we deploy a life raft and do all of our lifesaving activities.

SchoolTech has a partnership with Shoreline which provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students like me with the chance to follow in the footsteps of Elders and look after Country. I have always felt a connection to the sea and the idea of working on a tourist boat really interested me. I get to spend a few days a week working as a trainee on an Experience Co tourism vessel. Through my traineeship, I have gained skills in rope splicing, tying ropes, navigation and driving vessels. I am grateful for my traineeship with Experience Co as I have been given the chance to embrace my culture in the workplace which has helped me gain confidence.

A typical work day for me starts at the marina at 7am. I fuel up the boats early in the morning and by about 8.30am I welcome the tourists on board. I take care of the ropes before we leave and then I do the lifesaving demonstration. After that, I am then on deck watch and chat to the tourists about the cultural aspects of the land and sea. Once we get to the reef, I usually drive the glass bottom boat and point out the different coral sites, the names of a variety of fish species as well as how Green Island was made. At work, my level of maturity has helped me take on a leadership role and I enjoy the opportunity to support younger trainees.

Because of my dedication to my training and traineeship, I won a regional Queensland Training Award for School-based Apprentice or Trainee of the Year. I am so proud of this achievement, as is my family, and I now feel more confident to help younger students who look up to me.

When I finish Year 12, I plan to continue working with Experience Co. I will also remain in the Shoreline program, meaning I will have support to further my career. My passion is to keep training until I can become a skipper. When I finish high school, I would like to become a member of the Junior Shoreline Board and mentor young Indigenous trainees. I would like the opportunity to give back and visit schools to talk to students about this fantastic pathway.

Before I started my training, I knew very little about the maritime industry. The training has also improved my general life skills and my attitude toward school and work. I am always telling others of the great opportunity I have been given through SchoolTech. I’m influencing younger cousins and younger Aboriginal kids to come to TAFE. Others can see that I thrive at what I do and that I put all my effort into studying and getting my trade certificates so that my future is positive. Finding my passion and talent has changed my life and made me a more positive person.