Gillies St Main Campus & Farm/Senior Campus: - Phone (03) 5334 1302

2023 08 news work exp 01The Senior Campus at Ballarat Specialist School is very excited to be joining with Country Grocers in Skipton for a 2nd year after a very successful pilot year in 2022. For those unaware, this wonderful opportunity came into fruition last year when past teacher, Ben Decis offered us this valuable program.

Ben and his family own and operate Country Grocers and have 5 stores in the region: Skipton, Trentham, Avoca, Smythesdale, and Ballan. For the last 23 year’s Ben’s family have been one of the many independent family-owned businesses that operate Grocery Stores in small town markets that sit at the heart of local communities across Australia.
This year Country Grocers are proud to have put in the hard work to become their own enterprise and completely independent to IGA. Even with this massive change to their business and the challenges it has presented, Country Grocers has made the return of this program a priority and were committed to finding time to offer us this amazing work experience program. We are exceptionally lucky.

Once more, Ben and his Country Grocers team have offered to turn the Skipton supermarket into an operating training hub for 11 of our year 11 and 12 students. Ben, his store managers Ashlee and Courtney, and his other chosen staff, along with two supporting staff from BSS, join the students each Wednesday in Term 3 to support them learning valuable retail skills that may assist them in gaining employment in the future.

From the moment students enter the store each Wednesday they are treated as though they are employees, dressed in appropriate Country Grocers uniform and name tags. The students have already learnt beneficial information on how a supermarket operates from day to day, including many of the behind the scenes’ aspects.

The students are all given tasks to complete that include: basic retail principles like rotating stock or ‘FIFO’ (first in, first out), the importance of stock placement and presentation on shelves, building customer displays, training on the register and serving customers, helping when new stock arrives, store walks with Ashlee and Courtney looking at what needs to be done to make retail stores operate, and allocated time to complete the Country Grocers induction modules.

Discussions with the students about the program so far have been brilliant, and the general consensus is how enthusiastic they are to be part of this program. For many students participating in the program this year, it is a massive step towards them breaking out of comfort zones and anxiety, to now applying themselves completely to all required tasks and excelling at job skills they didn't even know they could do. Ben’s message to the students is clear “we’ve put this whole program together for students to gain employment experience that they can take into the real world, so come in, get stuck in and do your best. If you make mistakes, let’s figure out why and how and work together to fix it so when it happens again you know what to do. But there’s no “I can’t do that”. Mistakes are just opportunities to learn and do better.” There is no greater value than watching young adults that doubted themselves, achieve such success. It is also lovely to see students greeting customers in a friendly and cheerful manner, and they are delighted by many of the customers interest in what they are doing and wishing them well.

We feel this is a very rare and invaluable opportunity for students, and once again we are exceedingly grateful to Ben, his family and staff for providing our students with a chance to build their retail job skills, and in many respects their life skills, that they can carry onto their future pathways.


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