The Downs Industry Schools Co-Op (‘DISCO’) is a specialist not-for-profit youth-services agency operating across South West Queensland with three offices (including head office) based in Toowoomba, an office in Dalby and an office in Gatton.

Founded in 1997, the organisation is focussed on providing a range of support services, programs, counselling and career guidance to regional young people aged 14-24 to assist their transition from school into further education, training or employment.

The organisation’s goal is to assist youth from both within and outside of the educational system to develop the required education and employment skills that will lead to an enriched and fulfilling life. The assistance DISCO provides is currently supported by funding from all levels of Government. For more detailed information on each of our programs, please click here.

DISCO currently employs a number of staff, has 13 board members and 25 volunteers to work with approximately 3,500 young people annually.

DISCO is governed by a Management Committee and supported by ordinary members made up of industry, educational and youth representatives. Our programs are monitored to ensure both education and industry work closely together to maximise the objective of giving each young person the best chance to make a smooth transition from secondary school into employment or further study.

 

‘Partnering Schools, Linking with Business, Supporting Youth’

 

The Trusty DISCO bus!

The Trusty DISCO bus!

PIC - FOGS Expo

DISCO representing at the FOGS Employment & Careers Expo

Graduates of DISCO's Youth Connections program

History

 

1997-1999

DISCO was formed in 1997 with a membership base made up of industry and educational representatives to provide a professional industry placement (work experience) service to schools and industry on the Darling Downs.

DISCO’s was initially formed to provide industry with a more centralised industry placement service to minimise the duplication caused when individual schools arranged industry placements causing employers to be visited by numerous teachers and students seeking industry placement positions. DISCO’s program was distinct from general work experience in that students would receive prior instruction at school before commencing in the workplace and were required to be studying related subjects at school. This meant that employers would be assisting to train and prepare young people who already had a commitment or an interest to work in their field. This would lead to more tangible employment opportunities with more young people obtaining paid employment as a direct result of this work experience program.

Upon commencement, DISCO was partnered with just fourteen secondary schools however this has now grown to encompass schools not just in Toowoomba but across the entire Darling Downs. Schools access services as required based on their needs and in line with the range of vocational alternatives available.

 

2000-2002

In 2000 DISCO’s Management Committee amended the charter of the organisation to allow for diversification beyond industry placement. This allowed the organisation with the opportunity to move into the provision of a wider range of services to support member schools and young people.

In 2001 the Management Committee approved a trial to allow DISCO to commence working in the area of school-based apprenticeships and traineeships. This program subsequently commenced on a fee-for-service basis and a number of member schools immediately agreed to support the trial, which continues to this day.

In late 2002 DISCO was contracted to deliver the Jobs Pathway Programme (JPP). The JPP program provided students with the opportunity to benefit from assistance while at school or while transitioning to further study. Working in partnership with groups in Toowoomba, the JPP project allowed local schools and students as well as young people based across the Darling Downs to benefit from the assistance available through this program. This allowed for individualised support to clients allowing DISCO’s Career and Transition Coordinators to develop a program aimed at building self esteem by developing an action plan to achieve the objectives as desired by the client. This program ceased operating in 2005.

 

2003-2005

In 2003 DISCO widened its charter to expand its assistance to a wider group of young people. This included applying for funds to develop more specific projects for our schools, students and the longer-term benefit of our employers.

Also in 2003 DISCO submitted a successful tender to the Federal Department of Families and Community Services (FaCS) in obtaining funding for a ‘Mentor Marketplace’ pilot project. This program allowed DISCO to work with project partners across the Darling Downs to deliver assistance to young people at risk of disengaging or leaving school prematurely. This program ceased operation in 2004.

Continuing in 2003, DISCO successfully applied for funding for a Youth Support Coordinator to support young people at risk of disengaging from formal learning within the education system. The project funded by the State Department of Communities, formed part of the State Government’s Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF). The project was instrumental in working with schools, community agencies, parents, registered training organisations and young people with the overall objective of minimising disengagement using innovative processes and activities. This project was further expanded in 2004 with the addition of two officers to support activity in Toowoomba and an additional officer to provide assistance to the Darling Downs region. DISCO continues to offer the Youth Support Coordinator program to this day in both Toowoomba and Dalby.

From 2003 to 2005 DISCO was successful in obtaining a Job Placement License and by assisting school leavers to directly access employment, DISCO was eligible to receive funding from the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations (DEWR). This involved our organisation to work with employers in the community to identify vacancies for positions which could be filled by students exiting secondary schooling.

In 2004 DISCO was successfully awarded the tender to deliver the ‘Get Set for Work’ program through the Department of Employment & Industrial Relations. The objective of this program was to assist 15 to 17-year-old clients who had prematurely disengaged from schooling to receive additional training and life skills to increase their chances towards transitioning into employment or further study. Funding for the ‘Get Set for Work’ program ceased in 2012.

DISCO continued to grow as an organisation and in 2005 received funding from the Department of Education, Science & Training (DEST). Funds were provided for three years to support the expansion of Structured Workplace Learning as well as the introduction of Career & Transition Support and Adopt-a- School initiatives designed to bring education and industry closer together.

 

2006-2010

In 2006 a further application for funding was agreed to by the State Department of Employment & Industrial Relations to allow DISCO’s delivery of the Youth Employment Support program. This program assisted young people aged 17 to 24 to gain the necessary skills required to obtain employment. Funding for this program ceased in 2012.

During 2007 DISCO was invited to apply for funds through the Department of Education, Science & Training (DEST) to support Indigenous Boarders in the Catholic and Independent school sectors. This program operated across the Toowoomba and Warwick regions with the objective of helping Indigenous boarders to complete their schooling by offering individualised support and group programs. Funding for this program ceased in mid 2009 but it is hoped that it will re-commence with additional funding support some time in the future.

In late 2009, DISCO formed a partnership with the Southern Downs Industry Education Association (SDEI) in Warwick and Goondiwindi Training and Technology (GTT), to apply for two new tender contracts to be delivered from 2010 for the duration of two years. The ‘Partnership Brokers’ and ‘Youth Connections’ tenders were funded by the Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and replaced previous funding under the Career Advice Australia initiative. The focus of Partnership Brokers was to build and develop effective relationships to identify the needs and understand the expectations of young people, education and training providers, business and industry, parents and families and community groups. While unsuccessful in its application towards this, DISCO was awarded the contract to deliver the Youth Connections program with the aim of assisting young people who are at risk of exiting school or have exited school prematurely, and offering support to help them to become reengaged appropriately. As a result of this, DISCO’s board made the decision to open an office in Roma in early 2010 with a focus to deliver support to young people in this region via the Youth Connections contract.

 

2011-2013

In 2011 the organisation experienced one of its most challenging periods with the January floods causing considerable damage to DISCO’s Head Office in Station Street. Luckily DISCO was able to lodge a successful insurance claim, and with more than $40,000 in damage to equipment, archives and marketing material, the organisation spent some months getting back on track. This year also proved to be a consolidation year, with continuity confirmed for programs including the Youth Support Coordinator Initiative, Youth Connections, the Employment Assistance Program and Get Set for Work.

2012 proved to be a challenging year for DISCO. Following a change of State Government, a number of DISCO’s programs had funding either cut or completely withdrawn. The Get Set For Work and Youth Employment Service programs concluded at the end of 2012, with our Youth Support Coordinator contracts losing a percentage of funding supplied by the Department of Communities. The continuation of the Youth Support Coordinator contract was confirmed until the end of the 2012-13 financial year. As Youth Connections receives its funding from the Federal Government it avoided being impacted at this time.

It became clear to the Management Committee in early 2013 that the funding landscape and possibly even the secure federal funding that the organisation had held since 1997 may come under threat particularly if there was a change in the federal government. In 2013 our work delivering Youth Connections continued (a one year extension until December 2014 was approved in the May budget) and the organisation commenced its plan to identify more fee-for-service work. This proved moderately successful although overall funding for the 2013 year dropped primarily as a result in the cut from the state government. Importantly in late 2013 after not being in receipt of core state government funding for more than 12 months the organisation successfully tendered for funding under the Queensland Government’s Community Learning program which was to commence in early 2014.

 

2014

In May 2014 the organisation’s worst fears were realised with the decision by the new Commonwealth Government to cease Youth Connections and effectively make state governments responsible for all support to young people under the age of 18. The organisation by this stage had seen the ‘writing on the wall’ and commenced partnerships with job service agencies with MOU’s in place to deliver the Jobs through Education & Training (JET) program under fee-for-service arrangements. Currently DISCO continues to deliver services to youth across South West Queensland and although our future is far from secure, we remain committed to assisting young people and surviving into the future.

 

2015

During 2015 the organisation continued to support young people even though this was the first year in the organisation’s history that no federally funded program would assist youth across the region.

The organisation successfully tendered for Queensland Government funding under the Community Learning Program which had a primary focus on training with DISCO delivering both its own program as well as working in partnership with Sunshine Coast based not-for-profit entity ‘United Synergies’ to deliver a second contract.

In June the organisation tendered for the State Government’s recently re-introduced ‘Skilling Queenslanders for Work’ funding and applied for two new programs – ‘Get Set for Work’ and ‘Ready for Work’. In September the organisation was advised that funding had been granted for both programs with the ‘Ready for Work’ (entitled ‘Youth Employment Support’ or ‘YES’) commencing in October and ‘Get Set for Work’ (entitled ‘Get Set and Go!’) to commence in early 2016. This was great news for DISCO having successfully delivered very similar programs in the past.

 

2016-2017

In late 2015 the organisation tendered for the new Transition to Work (TtW) program in consortium with Gateway To Training from Goondiwindi. The organisations were advised early in 2016 that their application had been successful and the new program commenced across South West Queensland on the 4th of April 2016.

This new funding enabled DISCO to expand its operations and required the business to open two new sites. A third Toowoomba office was opened at 1 Snell Street with its focus entirely on the new TtW service. This shared office saw collaboration with headspace Toowoomba and assisted young people with support under a ‘one-stop’ approach. A new office was also opened at 119 Spencer Street in Gatton with its focus initially on TtW but it is hoped that, in time, this office will undertake additional youth work services supporting the Lockyer Valley community.

The work to support youth into employment continued under TtW in 2017 with more than 200+ young people being assisted by team members in the Gatton, Dalby and Toowoomba offices.

Early in 2017, the Gatton office joined the Dalby and Toowoomba offices delivering the Get Set for Work (GSFW) program with the organisation focused on assisting 90 clients throughout the year.

Mike Paton, CEO