– 6 AUGUST 2020


A unique Emergency Induction Program commenced today for defence veterans who will work in Victorian aged care to assist during the pandemic.

Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Award winners, Ironside Recruitment in Victoria and East Coast Apprenticeships in Queensland have worked together around the clock to develop the program, offering a safer and more caring role for veterans supporting those locked down in aged care facilities.

Ironside Recruitment was recently tasked with delivering a contingent workforce of veterans to fulfil non-clinical roles in aged care.

Recognising the importance of specific aged and individual care training, Chief Executive Officer of Ironside Recruitment, Glen Ferrarotto said the organisation called on the expertise of East Coast Apprenticeships, who have been conducting their own successful Enhanced Pathways Program (Aged Care) in Queensland.

“Combining the experience and commitments of our organisations meant that we quickly had a solution to improve safety and care for our veterans and their efforts for our most vulnerable residents in locked down aged care facilities,” Mr Ferrarotto said.

“This enhanced training complements the already robust framework delivered to our veterans around the safe use of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing procedures.”

RSL Victoria provided immediate funding for this pilot intake, allowing this critical training for veterans to commence while further funding is considered by government.

East Coast Apprenticeships worked with their strategic training provider TAFE Queensland to create the program in a matter of days, drawing on TAFE Queensland’s extensive experience and innovation in training.

TAFE Queensland General Manager (East Coast) Ana Rodger said the program will be delivered in virtual classrooms over two days, with the veterans receiving expert guidance from one of their highly knowledgeable, industry-current trainers.

“TAFE Queensland is privileged to be able to offer our services and support Victoria in their moment of need. We are also preparing to have Ironside veterans from New South Wales join the program if required,” Ms Rodger said.

Chief Executive Officer for East Coast Apprenticeships, Alan Sparks said the program will provide skilled workers in a time when they are needed most.

“This will provide essential emergency training to allow veterans to provide excellent quality caring support and enhance the safety of veterans and those residents in aged care facilities,” Mr Sparks said.



- 14 August 2020

In December 1971, Alan Sparks graduated from Officer Training Unit, Scheyville near Sydney and spent 27 years in the Australian Army as an Infantry Officer.

A younger Alan Sparks in Australian Army camouflage uniform.An older Alan Sparks, in business attire, standing in front of a sign reading: ‘East Coast Apprenticeships’.
Over the years he held command appointments with 12 Platoon, 6 RAR (of Long Tan tradition), D Coy and Support Coy, 2/4 RAR, the Pilbara Regiment and the Malaysia Australian Joint Defence Program. He also spent two years in Germany with the British Army of the Rhine as part of a long established exchange program. For his leadership and contribution, Alan was made a Member of the Order of Australia.
In early 1998, Alan transitioned out of service: “I gave the Army the best and healthiest part of my life. It is a young man’s game and while I was still able to keep up on route marches and cross countries, it was taking longer to recover. I had also missed some very important parts of our daughter growing up and wanted to share more time with my family.”

Leaving the Army, Alan faced a period of unemployment and experienced bouts of anxiety, worrying how he would provide for his family.
“The period in my life of unemployment was a major challenge,” says Alan. “The dignity of work is so important to all. With work comes individual respect and respect for others.”
After a three-month-long job hunt, Alan became the CEO of East Coast Apprenticeships, a Group Training Organisation which focusses on promoting, retaining and supporting apprenticeships and traineeships for all Australians, including disadvantaged, disabled or distressed youth and adults.
Having now been at the helm of the organisation for 22 years, Alan has a particular interest in helping his fellow veterans, believing they have the skills, experience and talent to make a substantial contribution to the civilian workforce.
“We've got people here who have served the nation, who have made in many cases significant sacrifices, and it behoves us not to give them a ‘hand out’ but certainly a ‘hand up’ in that transition out of service life. It would be silly on everyone's part not to recognise that veterans have a continuing contribution to make.”
Developing the Defence Trade Program, an initiative which saw East Coast Apprenticeships win a 2020 Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Award, Alan offers tailored training and support to arm veterans with the necessary confidence and skills to enter the apprentice system and gain paid employment.
Prior to enrolling, Alan meets with every candidate; to establish trust, understand their circumstances, background, skills and experience, and develop an Individual Transition Plan.

“What we've created is a flexible approach, where an individual, with all the stresses that might be associated with their transitional period, can be accommodated. Many veterans will say to me, ‘Now I have a pathway to follow,’ and I think that's really important. Once they know where to go and they've made that decision, it gives them meaning and purpose, it gives them a respect for what's ahead of them in their life.”
While moving into a civilian role is a significant change, Alan says it is important transitioning Australian Defence Force members remember, that their military service has prepared them for whatever they do next.
“The personal characteristics developed in service coupled with the methods of a soldier and preparing for the unexpected are transferable skills. The day of transition is the first day of the rest of your life! Define what will make you happy in a job and then seek that role. Reach out to others and share your life with family and friends. Lastly, create your own Individual Transition Plan and find individuals and organisations that can wrap their support around your plan.”

Excellence in Supporting Veteran Employment - 2020

East Coast Apprenticeships has developed and conducts the Defence Trade Program (DTP) offering support to veterans and their families seeking a trade career. DTP also supports non-trade career veterans.

The DTP offers vocational training linked with a sound network of employers and stakeholders, to offer relevant and timely advice and guidance to veterans. Outside of group training there are few other 'hands-on' organisations that can match this level of guidance and support. To date, East Coast Apprenticeships has engaged with almost 350 veterans, with profiles created and developed following a one-on-one interview with Executive Officer Lieutenant Colonel Alan Sparks, AM, BEM (Retired).

East Coast Apprenticeships, working with TAFE Queensland, has developed a new veterans Enhanced Pathways Program for carpentry, shop fitting and cabinet making trades. At present, these programs are offered with flexibility, solely to veterans in Brisbane. The program features a platform of skills and experiences in the selected trade in a concentrated eight-week program with virtual one-on-one instruction from TAFE Queensland trainers. The 'trickle feed' entry into this training allows quick engagement for veterans seeking these trades. The extensive network of host employers increases the opportunities for an adult apprenticeship for graduates whose employability skills are heightened through the training.

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