While a group of 120 people from schools and industry discussed the employment futures of young people across western Sydney at a breakfast event on Tuesday, a small group of Glenwood High School students was in the Novotel Parramatta's kitchen making the food.
The year 12 hospitality students are among the 6000 who are provided with industry mentors,
work experience and employment readiness training each year by school and industry partnership broker AusSIP, which services The Hills and Parramatta.
The organisation was told it would not receive any funding for the solely federally-funded Partnership Brokers program in today's federal budget.
Glenwood High School principal Erla McMaster heads the largest high school in western Sydney, with 1561 students.
She said programs like AusSIP's Partnership Brokers were crucial to expose students to opportunities which lead to employability.
"School is just a starting point and I think that's where our partnership brokers and our industry can really link with us so that we help to build those foundations and build awareness," she said.
"It's a huge job and we need to do it together.
"As parents and as teachers, we don't know all the different possibilities that children can have for their future."
Local employment co-ordinator for Sydney's west and Blue Mountains, Narelle Wheathead, agreed.
"About 30 per cent of our population who graduate year 12 go to university, and about half of those finish their degrees," she said.
"Our system is set up to basically support 15 per cent of our school population and what do we do with the rest?"
Novotel Parramatta executive chef Pierre Wong supervised the Glenwood High School hospitality students through food preparation, and was pleased when they sang an impromptu Happy Birthday to a courier who entered the kitchen.
He said attitude was everything in a high-pressured service environment.
"I would rather an all-star team as opposed to a team of all stars," he said.
"You can teach competence for the most part, but compatibility and those soft skills are much harder to come by and they end up being life skills as well."
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