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The Next Step

The Rotary Club of Richmond’s Next Step Project is in its 15th year of operation with a number of students from Collingwood and Fitzroy Secondary schools participating in the Program.

Rotarian Jo Cowling Community and Vocational Chair and the Committee and Trustees continue to manage this Project for the Club. 2020-2021. This year proved to be a challenging year as the Next Step Project was impacted by COVID Lockdowns and the resignation of the Youth Manager in the middle of 2020.
We have maintained our networks and connections and Grant Funding ensured the continued viability of the Next Step Project.

We had appointed a Youth Manager to lead and coordinate the program at both schools in 2019. The Youth Manager worked with the students providing them with resources and support on their pathway to employment. She was able to remain connected with students for part of the year but this became more difficult and
opportunities for work experience and face to face learnings were no longer available due to the disruption of COVID Lockdowns.

The Youth Manager continued to engage with community networks and with the school year level coordinators. The school coordinators had identified students who would most benefit from this program leading them to employment opportunities and or further education.

On 2020-21 the Project continued to be impacted by the COVID, the program has had to be rather adaptive in the way the Youth Manager was able to communicate with students as many do not have internet access, smart phones, working laptops or are
sharing devices with multiple family members. The majority of the students are living in the high-rise estates and do not have the space to study and are often surrounded by their families or looking after young siblings, this has made the transition to online learning really difficult, and they are struggling to keep up with their workloads.


Therefore, this has meant a lot of trial and error-negotiating appropriate times to call and the best way to communicate etc.

Over the first 6 months of 2021 the Youth Manager was communicating with the students through phone calls, face time calls, WhatsApp video calls, emails and texts and Gmail video conferencing. She created a Next Step email through Gmail which
allowed her to send video conferencing invitations to student’s calendar’s, send reminders and this worked well in the first half of the year. The Youth Manager remained connected to Youth Services at the City of Yarra regarding issues they have been facing with engagement, youth trends since COVID and work experience.
Most students remained committed to continuing the program, and many conversations were about their future pathways, goals, finding employment after COVID and how they can best prepare.

Students returned to school on the 25 May 2020 and we hoped we would continue to assist students to be more connected once again. It has not been possible to provide work experiences for the students during this period. The Youth Manager discussed
SMART goals, looking into resumes, interview questions, interests and career
pathways. She also talked with them about VCE as students are also asking the question – “how do people get into university”. The Youth Manager maintained connections with the school, networks and explored new opportunities such as the Fitzroy Learning Network to discuss opportunities and training programs they offered for young people.
However, in June 2020 the Rotary Club of Richmond suspended the Project.


Project Funding

We were very grateful for the funding support we received from the City of Yarra, Inner North Community Foundation and the Bendigo Bank Clifton Hill.
Thank you for the support of the Rotary Club of Richmond, the Community and Vocational Committee members. I would like to acknowledge and thank Next Step Trust Trustees. I am grateful for the financial guidance provided by Rotarian Ben Hosking and FoRR Dot Brown who continues to manage the book-keeping.


Celebrate Inspiring Women Event

This had become an annual Rotary Club of Richmond community event and funds raised supported the Next Step Project. The event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021due to the impact of COVID and we hope to resume in 2022.
The event provided us with an opportunity to celebrate Inspiring Women in the Community and maintain our connections with local businesses and schools.


Jo Cowling

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