Third cohort of Eagles RAPS youth graduates in Western Sydney

Program offers pathway for marginalised youth.
Dec 8, 2021
Disadvantaged, struggling kids given pathways to work.

Eagles RAPS is a non-profit organisation that provides skills training to disenfranchised youth in the Blacktown region of Western Sydney.

The organisation’s goal is to build young people’s life skills so they can actively participate in education, employment, and their community.

Among the courses students study is the Certificate III in Information Technology, a nationally recognised qualification which provides foundational skills and knowledge needed to start a career in the IT industry.

Having the opportunity to complete the Certificate III study has opened new pathways for student Noah Tirados, who was struggling with what he calls the “normal high school environment” and was referred into the program when he was 16.

“I joined Eagles RAPS in 2019 and started with the Workplace Skills Certificate,” Noah says, “It’s like having your own coach in your corner, every day.”

“I’m now studying my Cert III in Information Technology with Eagles RAPS and should be done by April 2022. I’ve always been interested in IT, so to be able to study something I enjoy is cool. I’m currently building a computer as part of the course and look forward to finding a job in IT once I finish the course,” Noah says.

“We work with young people who are in difficult circumstances for a whole range of reasons,” Program coordinator Sally Wynd says. “More than 90% of our young people come from homes that experience disadvantage, and a lot of the time they have lived through significant trauma. Many of them have also fallen out of the school system or are at risk of doing so.”

Wynd says Eagles RAPS starts by working with young people to give them the confidence to see a brighter future, and then helps them get their lives on track through building skills and finding employment.

“Because these are very disadvantaged kids, they often don’t believe they can achieve such things. We help teach them that it’s possible,” Sally says.

Eagles RAPS was founded in 1997 as a youth centre, focused on improving mental health. It opened a drop-in centre in 2000 and began an education program in 2003 with just two young men as students. The word quickly spread and before long Eagles RAPS was facilitating courses through TAFE for around 20 young people a day. They quickly became known as an alternative education centre for young people who could not attend mainstream school for various reasons, and for their work minimising these issues while delivering education.

In 2018, Eagles RAPS became a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). They still use TAFE for some Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses, but now run their own Foundation Skills, certificates in Information Technology, White Card, and First Aid courses.

Eagles RAPS Service Director, Scott Dent says that being an RTO means they can help young people complete their secondary education and gain qualifications in fields including hospitality, information technology, early childhood, and community services.

“The big things for us are employability, behaviour, and work ethic,” Scott says. “We also provide counselling and mentoring to improve behaviours and attitudes. If we can get students into an education program where we can work with them five days a week, for four or five hours a day, that is an enormously meaningful amount of time that we get to spend with them.”

In late 2019, as part of Amazon Web Services (AWS) mission to create innovative programs that have a lasting impact in the regions where its teams work, live and raise their families, the AWS InCommunities team began supporting Eagles RAPS and its Doonside centre in New South Wales. Since then, they have sponsored 10 to 15 positions annually to help young people complete the various courses that Eagles RAPS offers.

In addition to providing course funding, AWS staff also act as mentors to some of the young people in the program. Furthermore, in 2021, AWS helped Eagles RAPS upgrade their IT infrastructure so the students could continue their education throughout COVID-19 lockdowns.