Ten years ago, I wrote an editorial in MECS Matters called, “Turning problems into people”.
I remarked on the buzz seeing Ranges TEC full of people for its official opening in March 2012. Well over 150 people gathered then to acknowledge the contributions of so many who had worked faithfully to see the vision of a Christian Trade Training Centre realised. The crowd was filled with grandparents, parents, students, representatives of the three founding schools, MPs and Yarra Ranges Councillors.
Celebrations began with a welcome from Ellen Prior, Director of Ranges TEC at the time. Adam Mason, one of the students, read from Psalm 100. The Principals from Mountain District Christian School, Donvale Christian College, and MECS (the three founding schools) all participated in the opening ceremony. All remarked on God’s timing in so many facets of Ranges TEC. The story of the approval of the $4.43 million grant from the Dept of Education’s Trade Training Centres in Schools program was woven through these addresses. And we formally acknowledged the contribution of the Commonwealth Government in enabling the establishment of the facilities.
In what would foreshadow the experience of many families over these last 10 years, three parents, Melinda McKay, Mark Rumble and Anna Gordon, spoke of their thankfulness and the positive impact Ranges TEC was having on their children and family. Possibly the highlight of the ceremony were the responses by four students, Bethany Schroder, Nathan Galle, Nicholas Rowland and Daniel McCrimmon. Among their significant responses was one expression that captures the impact of Ranges TEC, “I went from being a problem to be managed, to being treated as a real person.” You could feel the collective unspoken ‘yes’ at that statement. I had the privilege then to lead the gathering in a prayer of dedication – dedicating the facilities, students, staff, and governing working group to God.
In the years that have followed Ranges TEC enrolments have more than doubled. Students have come to Ranges TEC from over 30 different schools. We acquired an additional factory unit at 9 Hightech Place. Our reputation in the Yarra Valley VET cluster (schools in the Yarra Valley that cooperate in opening up vocational training options for Secondary students) is second to none. Of course, we have our Certificate 2s in Engineering, Furniture Making, Building and Construction, Electrotechnology, Horticulture and Kitchen Operations. On top of those we offer courses for Construction Safety (White Card), First Aid, Food Safety, and Youth Mental Health First Aid. Staff and students have won various awards over the years. Consequently, we are one of the few thriving combined school – registered training organisations in Victoria.
The Ranges TEC story began of course a number of years before its opening in 2012. On 7 December 2009 the Boards of the three founding schools met together to agree to pursue the creation of Ranges TEC. That agreement opened a new chapter in Christian Education. I want to wrap up this editorial considering just a few aspects of why that new chapter of more hands-on-learning is needed.
Ranges TEC has opened up more opportunities for focused concrete learning than school typically does. This way of learning requires full immersion and regular experience with an aspect of life and focused attention to the details. More than that, the approach to learning in Ranges TEC resists the world’s mantra of learning for personal growth or learning for creation of personal wealth, but instead values learning for service. This links in to the notion that the team at Ranges TEC seeks to teach and support work practices that place profit and efficiency in their proper place. They are only two aspects of work among many others, such as, ethical behaviour, environmental care, personal wellbeing, community life and aesthetics. There is a natural flow on to the idea that Ranges TEC approaches learning, especially trade skill learning, as a matter of character development as well as skills.
We have much to be thankful to God for in our 10th anniversary year of our Ranges TEC campus. Check out www.rangestec.vic.edu.au for more of the story.