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Businesswomen lead way for youth

In the midst of a nationwide skills shortage, two local businesswomen are working hard to help provide young people with the support, resources and opportunities they need to become work ready in Far North Queensland.

Vocational Partnerships Group (VPG) CEO Maryanne Tranter and Operations Manager Emma Takai have almost 40 years’ combined experience at the not-for-profit organisation after beginning as administration and work experience officers 20 years ago and 18 years ago respectively.

Maryanne says their lengthy stints in the industry have only strengthened their passion for the work they do.

“It’s very unusual in this day and age to have the type of tenure that Emma and I have at VPG,” says Maryanne.

“We both started in very junior positions, and over the course of 15 or more years have transitioned into various leader and management roles, and for myself more executive now.

“We’ve had the opportunity over close to two decades to really define our organisational values and our workplace culture.”

According to Emma, these values are what set the organisation apart for the staff and for their clients.

“We have a wonderful sense of compassion here at VPG,” says Emma. “That’s a really important value to have within an organisation, and that comes from the top and goes all the way down.

“We don’t know if somebody had a rough night, we don’t know what their morning was like, and the minute they walk through the door, the team is there and we’re there to help them.

“Alongside compassion, we have fun. And I think those elements together make it a great team. I know that’s why I’ve been here for 18 years, and I’m sure that’s probably why Maryanne’s been here for 20 years as well.”

The pair pride themselves on their team-focused leadership style, which sees them as very much part of their team as opposed to above it.

“Emma and I aren’t into titles and we’re not into traditional hierarchy. We don’t have offices; we sit amongst our team,” explains Maryanne.

“It’s about really ensuring that we celebrate success, we’re inclusive to all, and everyone understands how their role relates to impact.

“I want to come to a centre that is well resourced, that is a lovely environment to be in, that’s inspirational both for us and for our clients. I want people to look forward to coming to work every day and finding joy when they’re here,” says Maryanne.

“If something needs to be done, we get in and we do it,” adds Emma.

The approach seems to be working for them: VPG assists up to 700 young people every year between the ages of 15 and 24 to support their transition into the workforce.

I think it’s a whole of community responsibility to ensure young people have a successful transition…

Their offices, spanning across Cairns, Innisfail, Yarrabah, Atherton and Mareeba, also work with local employers to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved during and after work experience and placements.

“We believe that every young person has a valuable contribution to make to the social and economic lives of our communities,” says Maryanne. “And in order to do that, they need access to support, resources, opportunities and networks that facilitate that participation.

“We all want and need young people to be contributing socially and economically to our community, and as an employer we all need our roles filled and we all need people coming through that pipeline so that they can become really valuable employees and businesses can continue to grow and develop.”

She says the success they’ve achieved so far is a testament to the generosity of locals.

“I think it’s a whole of community responsibility to ensure young people have a successful transition, and we very much believe in harnessing a whole of community effort to ensure that happens.

“Amongst our Cairns local employers there’s this real culture of volunteerism and giving back to ensure young people have that first workplace experience and that it’s a positive one.

“It’s not something that VPG does on our own, we can only achieve it through employers who give back.”

While Maryanne says they’re always thrilled to see a young person succeed in their program, she says this success comes in many forms.

“When we see young people and when we see employers out in the community who themselves have been through our programs, that’s hugely inspiring.

“We always take the opportunity to celebrate not just the big wins that we showcase to the community, but all the small successes that happen along the way.”

VPG has been operating across Far North Queensland with the aim to “empower youth, strengthen families, and broker partnerships between education and industry” for 24 years.

Connect // vpginc.com.au

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