Embracing curiosity while undertaking an opportunity of a lifetime

14 Sep 2022 Andrea Evans-McCall, CUC Bass Coast Centre Manager

In January 2020, I was chasing a dream, developing my application for a Churchill fellowship, unaware that an outbreak of coronavirus that began in China would turn into a pandemic that would dominate our lives for the next two years. I completed my application and went through the selection process, which had to be undertaken via Zoom. I vividly remember losing my internet connection in my final interview. In a panic, I thought I had blown my chance! Once reconnected, I found the courage in the few minutes left to pitch my idea passionately. You can imagine my excitement and jubilation when in September 2020, I was announced as a Churchill Fellow. A colossal honour to be awarded this fellowship in the name of the great British Prime Minister and statesman Sir Winston Churchill.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust aims to honour and perpetuate the memory of Sir Winston Churchill. The fundamental goal of the Trust is to help Australians gain experience, information, and skills in their chosen area of expertise and to translate that into tangible gains for Australia. My project aim is to investigate employability skills development in inclusive learning environments.

This fellowship allows me the most fantastic opportunity to travel to the USA, Canada, Finland, and the UK over six weeks to experience innovative programs that develop employability skills for people with a disability in both community and educational settings. I will be networking and observing strategies, tools, and methods delivered internationally in authentic, fully integrated learning environments to see what lessons and insights can be brought back to influence thinking and inform practice in Australia.

My passion for employability skills development for this cohort first started when I started the role of National Disability Coordination Officer Program (NDCO) in 2013. Over the next seven years, I worked in collaboration to develop the I Am Ready Partnership. This partnership designed and delivered the I Am Ready Program across Gippsland in Victoria Australia.

The ‘I Am Ready’ Program was an innovative approach to employability skills development for students with a disability. The program evaluation identified that the ‘I Am Ready’ Program filled a gap in our mainstream education for a cohort of students who often miss out on developing the employability skills required to make a successful post-school transition into either employment, further education or training.

I will depart Australia on the 27th of October commencing my fellowship study tour; I will embrace curiosity while exploring best practice models of collaborative, holistic career development. I am excited to meet in person the people I have engaged with as I have progressed in developing my fellowship schedule. These professionals with whom I have built a relationship founded on a shared passion for raising aspirations and expectations via the development of employability skills.

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