When Thomas Patterson realised that about 60 per cent of his school’s students would be facing employment barriers after school, the early career teacher developed an inspirational program to break those barriers down.
The Manual Arts teacher, who is also a licensed carpenter and builder, created Marsden State High School’s Mana@Marsden program, which provides access to work experience and transport, as well as self-development and cultural efficacy workshops.
Mana@Marsden is based on the philosophy of the Polynesian and Māori word ‘mana’, which means prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status and charisma.
This year, Mana@Marsden has been opened to all construction students, with 52 pupils completing 84 different work experiences over 2500 hours in the past 18 months.
Marsden State High School (MSHS) deputy principal Michael Smith says Tom is constantly evolving the program to ensure it meets students’ and employers’ needs.
“One of the first innovations for the program was to change student timetables to be more reflective of employment environments,” Michael says. “This saw the early morning classes introduced from 7.15am, as well as combined grade level classes.”
Tom has formed partnerships with local companies including Lindona Design and Construction, Apollo Property Group, All Built Up, Versace Timbers and Bretts Hardware to give students real-world work experiences with industry professionals. He has also established a partnership with QUT, which is undertaking a research project on the program.
Each Mana@Marsden student is also provided with a staff mentor, while local mentors and guests run separate workshops.
“This innovative program has already expanded in 2019 to include a composite Year 11/12 Construction class and this will continue in 2020 along with including Year 10 students,” Michael says. “The program will also commence with a ‘second tier’ apprenticeship program, which will work specifically with Year 10/11 students with the aim to gain school-based apprenticeships, across a range of vocations.”
Michael says students have been employed and gained apprenticeships as a direct result of the program.
Tom, who has won multiple MSHS awards for the Mana@Marsden program, his teaching and his outstanding commitment to breaking down barriers faced by low socio-economic students, is a graduate of QUT’s National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools program.
He is also being praised for his commitment to Indigenous students by introducing collaborative initiatives with the Redland City Council and North Stradbroke Island elders, including an opportunity for pupils to take part in ‘yarning circles’.
Congratulations Tom on your nomination.