BTE Student Stories

Overnight Zoo Trip Group Photo

In January 2022, Bridge to Employment launched a program in Sydney, Australia, in partnership with Rise & Shine, Cambridge Park High School, and Janssen.

For the BTE Sydney program, the COVID-19 pandemic and local restrictions, combined with flooding and natural disaster after natural disaster, made it extremely difficult to implement the program. Despite a delay to the start of program activities, the commitment of the program partners and the sheer resilience of the students made this program possible. To date, program partners – in response to student interests – have largely focused on a combination of career exploration and higher education preparation opportunities to help increase the number of young people pursuing post-secondary education and STEM2D careers. Additionally, the students have had many opportunities to collaborate with Janssen employees from the community, who serve as volunteers, supporting the students’ discovery of STEM2D careers and education pathways.

Pivot to Virtual Programming

For the beginning of the program, with stringent COVID-19 protocols in place, the site decided to keep the students engaged by providing virtual programming focused on career awareness. The site shared pre-recorded materials from a careers library and then facilitated real time Q&A so that students could ask questions about any of the featured careers. The program partners also organized for virtual behind the scenes sessions with staff from the local Taronga zoo, where they met a wide range of zoo staff who shared their own career trajectories and advice.

With the career awareness programming well received by the students, program partners then implemented a virtual Day in the Life series, which sparked much interest and discussion on career paths and work experiences. They also participated in quizzes with prizes that ranged from rope climbing family passes, to a day pass to about learn trades and other career paths, as well as the opportunity to visit Rugby Australia to meet sport physicians, players, and coaches, and tour world class sports facilities. The career awareness programming, though it was initially virtual, was instrumental in maintaining student engagement.

In-Person ActivitiesGroup with Janssen

BTE Sydney celebrated once programming could move to in-person interactions. Recognizing that people skills are an important part of supporting post-secondary transitions, combined with the need to support students’ transition back to in-person activities, program partners organized in-person tours to Tree Top Adventures. Students learned about resilience and engaged in several teambuilding activities. This helped them develop their individual social skills, but also helped them build a cohesive BTE cohort.

As part of the move to in-person programming, Janssen mentors were also on hand to support the students with small group discussions and to provide career advice. Additionally, Janssen employee volunteers visited the students at school and led talks about various devices used in their work, which was fascinating for the students, and continued to introduce them to the diverse STEM2D fields.

Fully aware that students thoroughly enjoy field trips, the program partners organized a two-day zoo sleepover, a combination of learning and fun. Students toured the zoo facility and learned about the animals, including their welfare and history. Students also visited the zoo’s world-class facility, where educators, students, and scientists collaborate to shape a better future together. Through the unique overnight experience, students also learned about the environment and how everyone can help make a difference for wildlife.

Overnight Zoo Trip Group Photo

What’s next for the BTE Sydney program?

Some of the upcoming activities program partners have already planned include: more tours, more career awareness and advising sessions, visits to Janssen facilities, hands on STEM2D activities, work experience and job shadowing opportunities, and individualized tutoring to support students’ academic performance and achievement.

With all the challenges experienced, the Sydney program has persisted in weathering the storm. The program is set to end in 2024. The BTE family eagerly looks forward to all that is to come.