Growing up in Baghdad, Iraq, Waseem Abdul-Ahad thought caravans were 'holiday homes for the rich.'
They were very expensive and belonged to the upper echelons of Iraqi society.
Now in Australia, Waseem, 19, of Lalor, has the opportunity to work on caravan manufacturing as a student in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT).
The study program in English for recent arrivals and refugees has been inventively extended to include a module in the Use of Hand & Power Tools in Caravan Manufacturing at NMIT's Epping campus.
It is designed to introduce students of varying ages to further study options and employment outcomes in an industry that is growing that students may never have considered.
Fourteen male students, from Iraq, China, Vietnam, Sudan, Somalia and Macedonia, aged from 19 years to those in their 40s, attend the campus every Thursday to learn new skills to give them an introduction to work in Australia.
NMIT AMEP Preston campus coordinator Susan Healey said the module was offered to the students to broaden their horizons and instead of completing their English studies and then wondering what to do, this gave them a real option to pursue.
'The module gives them a taste of working and studying a real program and many of them have come to Australia with little work experience and scant understanding of the Australian workplace culture,' Susan said.
'They have to use public transport to get to Epping, be punctual, have the appropriate clothing and work to a schedule.
'The students not only have the opportunity to participate in hands-on, direct experience, but can learn English as it relates to the real world. It's in a practical context where students have to negotiate shared equipment, listen to instructions and ask questions as they learn.
'There is also casual chatter between the students which doesn't happen in the formal classroom setting.'
Susan added it was a great boost to their confidence and self-esteem by giving them a sense of purpose and direction.
The program was sponsored by Rays Outdoors in Preston who donated 14 sets of overalls for the students.
'For many of these students, confidence and self-esteem are real problems as they come from war torn countries with experiences of trauma and torture and loss of family members,' Susan said.
'The module enhances both their professional and personal development.'
She added the majority of the students had no formal qualifications that were recognised in Australia.
For Waseem, who spoke Assyrian in Iraq and had little command of English when he arrived in Australia in June 2006, the module study has given him an insight and experience into work that he hopes will lead on to further study.
'I like to work with my hands and using hand and power tools in a safe way is good for me. It's also been good for my English.'
Waseem added he had never seen the inside of a caravan until studying at NMIT and now thinks about going on and learning to make a whole caravan.
'It would be good to learn the skills to make it all and then I'd like to take one for a holiday. A caravan can be like a real house and I'm learning skills I can use later. It makes me feel better about myself by doing something useful.'
And he added, now he knew they were not just 'homes' for the rich.
The program runs until the end of June.
NMIT offers Certificate III in Recreational Vehicle Manufacturing as well as Certificate III in Recreational Vehicle Servicing at its Epping campus. Inquiries: (03) 9269-1200
Interview / Photo Opportunity
Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.
Interview / Photo Opportunity
Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener.