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From red dirt to Red October

17 May 2021

It takes more than 8.5 hours of driving to get from Coober Pedy Area School to the Osborne Naval Shipyard where defence contractors are gathering the workforce to deliver an estimated 50 year, $90 billion shipbuilding and maintenance program.

But according to CPAS principal Maurice Saah the biggest barrier preventing his students grasping the job opportunities flowing out of the work isn’t distance but imagination.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Maurice says.

“One of the big challenges in an isolated community with a narrow economic base is giving students visibility of the type of careers that are available to them.”

To help overcome this barrier 12 CPAS students travelled from the opal mining town to Babcock Australasia’s marine development facilities where they met the skilled engineers and tradespeople helping to service the Navy’s submarine fleet.

The motive behind the trip is encouraging students to pursue STEM pathways.

“Being able to join the dots from the subjects you can study to their practical application in the workforce is really important as a motivational tool,” Maurice said.

“We put a big emphasis on sparking imagination and the visit to Babcock is the kind of opportunity that gives a young person that ah-ha moment.

“For us this trip isn’t a one off, it’s an expression of our philosophy to support and motivate students to achieve their best.”

For year 11 student, Shannon, the trip has certainly got them thinking about the future.

“This trip has given me an opportunity to experience the careers and pathways that exist out there and motivates me to work hard to achieve my desired ambition which starts with my SACE completion,” she said.

Students Nickell, Bella and Shannon watch a machinery demonstration.

Located 850 kilometres from Adelaide off the main highway to Alice Springs, Coober Pedy Area School provides teaching and support services to around 250 students from reception to year 13.

Students are drawn from 49 different cultures, with more than half of enrolments Aboriginal students.

The school’s vision is to be a school of choice, providing quality teaching and learning opportunities for all students, preparing them for academic excellence, vocational and post school pathways and engagement as meaningful citizens. 

Along with delivery of the Australian Curriculum and SACE, the school also offers VET options both onsite and offsite.