If you’ve ever wondered how much impact one person can make through their work, ask Heather Bitter.
In her role as Director of the Northern Adelaide State Secondary Schools’ Alliance (NASSSA), Heather helps more than 10,000 secondary students by collaborating with Principals and other staff across 12 schools in South Australia to further their education, training and employment opportunities.
NASSSA was formed to maximise student learning opportunities, promote diversity in career pathways after school and improve educational outcomes for students.
It’s also a key link between schools and the community, universities, Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and industry partners.
“We’re doing this together,” she says. “I represent this community of amazing people who value vocational education and training (VET) as a pathway and our collaborative work provides definite economies of scale.”
“I see myself as a mediator. Schools, businesses and industries are busy places and sometimes through a conversation with NASSSA, we can focus on what’s truly needed.”
One of NASSSA’s primary goals is encouraging young people to transition from school to VET and school-based apprenticeships.
As a VET Ambassador through the Australian VET Alumni, Heather is a passionate advocate and works with dedication to provide students with career pathways and advice in sectors with strong economic and job prospects.
In Northern Adelaide, VET pathways are highly valued by students, their families and by employers. VET provides hands-on, practical learning. The skills students gain from VET courses can be used across various sectors, industries and institutions, opening up career opportunities.
“No one should ever think there’s just one career pathway,” Heather says.
Fortunately for SA students, NASSSA was able to continue helping students despite the impact of COVID-19 and she continues to work collaboratively with RTOs during these times of uncertainty.
“RTOs were marvellous and supported the students well,” Heather says.
Heather is also working with the SA Department for Education to introduce a new VET for School Students policy, which concentrates on careers in engineering, construction, individual support, health services, early childhood education and care sectors and other industry-identified shortage areas. This ensures students from NASSSA schools can do the courses they identified to support their career pathway.
VET courses are run across the 12 NASSSA schools with each hosting a different course and between 700-800 students per week participate.
NASSSA won the Australian Training Awards School Pathways to VET Award in 2016 and was also a finalist in the new VET Innovation category in the South Australian Training Awards in 2019.
“My work is all about the students. Helping business and industries link into schools, that’s a dream for me,” Heather says.
“Enabling better connections between business and industry and young people’s understanding of the world of work is so important. It’s continually changing and it’s inspiring. My days are always challenging, but so rewarding.”