The Centre chief executive awarded fellowship

By David Rak

With funding from the Federal Government, The Centre has commenced a program that has led to the awarding of an international fellowship.

The Centre, which recently opened in Seymour, is piloting a program that supports people who have interacted with the justice system to discover if they have a diagnosable learning difficulty, such as ADHD or dyslexia, that has prevented them from achieving in education and employment.

The Centre chief executive Felicity Williams received an international fellowship through the International Specialised Skills Institute.

The fellowship is funded by the Department of Education and Training, Higher Education and Skills Group. It is directed at developing educational approaches that address the gaps between disadvantaged learners and high-quality education and training outcomes.

During the past five years, Ms Williams has led the development of The Centre’s adult education programs.

“This has included developing a deep understanding of the environmental risk factors surrounding our learner cohorts and adopting evidence-based approaches to encompassing protective factors within our education and learner support initiatives,” Ms Williams said.

“This has resulted in the transformation of our approach to providing vocational education and training (VET) programs to our learners through a whole-of-person approach to engaging difficult-to-reach learners in education.

“Often this means we support a learner to overcome significant challenges well before enrolling in a course through our learner engagement team.

“Through our research and discussion with key stakeholders, including the Department of Justice and Community Safety, we have identified that up to 50 per cent of people involved with the justice system may have an undiagnosed learning disorder.

“I believe adult community education providers such as The Centre are ideally placed to provide a therapeutic and supportive education program that assists people to understand that learning disorder, learn to manage it and find employment that suits their situation and utilises their strengths.”

This fellowship will take Ms Williams to Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada where she will meet with people and organisations who are demonstrating best practice in their approach to supporting adults with a learning disorder within an adult general education environment.

This includes support for people either incarcerated in prisons or in the community serving a corrections order.

Ms Williams is seeking to gain insights into tools and techniques that can be adopted by adult literacy and numeracy teachers to support people with learning difficulties.

“I will be focusing on ways to engage adults who have poor past experiences of education, and lack of diagnosis of a learning disorder as a child leading to frustration, low self-esteem and low educational attainment,” Ms Williams said.

“I will be seeking insights into ways to engage these adults in VET settings that support development of literacy, numeracy and inter-personal skills while overcoming the deficits of a learning disorder. 

“I hope to positively influence relevant government policy agendas in Australia and to enhance the professional development of VET teachers, particularly those involved in literacy and numeracy for adults programs.

“I hope the understandings gained through this fellowship will provide new ways for our VET sector to empower people to shift their lives through finding their strengths and ultimately gaining meaningful employment that recognises and plays to those strengths.”