When Liam Gordon began studying in an agricultural program at Wandalup Farm, Nambeelup, little did he know it would be leading directly to employment.
The 19-year-old graduated from the Flexible Learning Education and Engagement Centre (FLEEC) program - developed in partnership with Pinjarra High School and TAFE - last year.
He is now applying the knowledge and practical experience he gained from the program at the C-Wise composting facility, through a two-year trainee program.
"It feels good to be able to use my skills to make a meaningful impact on the farm where I started this journey," said Mr Gordon.
"I've learnt how food scraps and company waste can be turned into compost to improve soil quality and help with food production and playground and sporting field turf.
"I didn't like maths or English or even school, so for me to come out and work with my hands, I get a real sense of purpose and achievement."
The C-Wise traineeship will teach Mr Gordon about sustainable agriculture and the value of soil health and its role in the circular economy. He will also obtain his tele-handler and front-end loader certification.
The FLEEC program sees Year 11 and 12 students spend two years learning agricultural practices through hands-on work and they graduate with a Certificate II in Rural Operations.
The program helps students:
- understand the origin of their food - educating them about the land, the journey from seed to plate and providing a greater appreciation of food and waste - and it's value;
- understand the importance of sustainable practices of farming - traditional and modern farming practices related to soil health and irrigation, learn to fence, shear and crutch sheep, mark cattle, weed identification and control, animal husbandry, tree planting and wetland rehabilitation;
- acquire safety skills and awareness - hands-on experience with farm machinery, driving tractors and maintain machinery, develop a strong understanding of safety protocols and the importance of a safe and regulated work environment;
- develop responsibility and problem-solving skills - real-time decision making, seasonal cycles, challenges that come with working with animals and farming problems that arise and forcing them to adapt, innovate and make informed choices;
- learn life skills that extend beyond agriculture - a unique learning environment where the shearing shed and the land is their classroom, requiring team work, patience, environmental awareness and strong work ethic to care for crops and animals, grow organic vegetables and cook what they grow, providing independence, confidence and resilience.
C-Wise CEO, Greg Watts, said the company joined the FLEEC program 21-years-ago to help high school students learn the core skills of agriculture and connect students to the outdoors and nature.
"It's been a long-term project of ours to work with students and give them practical animal, land and farming knowledge and ultimately build a pipeline for employment opportunities, and Liam is testament to this vision," he said.
"What may have started as an outdoor farm experience for students uninterested in traditional classroom activity has evolved into genuine hands-on education of rural operations that's provided employment pathways for our local youth.
"It's never been more important for kids to learn how to protect and appreciate the environment and where their food comes from."
Mr Watts said it's partnership with Pinjarra High School also teaches students the value of carbon composting and the need to adopt circular thinking and promote sustainability through repurposing and the preservation of resources.
C-Wise is one of the largest privately owned composting companies in Western Australia. Its primary business is recycling organic carbon - treating carbon from used organic matter, then returning the recycled organic material to the soil in order to improve soil health and productivity.
It is also a sponsor of the FLEEC program, providing potential employment for graduates.
More employment opportunities are potentially on the way as C-Wise is opening a new organic carbon recycling facility in East Keralup, near Mandurah.
Darryl Spargo is the driving force behind the FLEEC program and after 47-years teaching students from Pinjarra High School, he will retire at the end of the year.
Mr Gordon considers himself to be part of Spargo's legacy.
"Without [Darryl Spargo's] knowledge and guidance, I wouldn't have the skills or the confidence to have a career with C-Wise," he said.