Cloe’s transformative journey

2023 INLLEN School to Work Program Case Study 1

Transformative Journeys: The Impact of multi-faceted Vocational Mentoring and Student Work Placement Programs on Career Aspirations.


This case study examines the transformative impact of the Inner Northern LLEN’s School to Work Program (STW) on a student, Cloe. It also evaluates the effectiveness of initiatives promoting inclusivity and career exploration within the plumbing industry. The narrative unfolds through the lens of a teacher’s observations, Cloe’s experiences, and the employer’s feedback.

Context and Background

In 2023, Cloe, a Year 11 VCE VM student at Glenroy College, embarked on a journey of career exploration with a choice between Hair and Beauty or Animal Studies. The story unfolds as Cloe, initially uncertain about her future, engages with her vocational mentor, Harriet, participates in an industry tour and the Structured Workplace Learning (SWL) program, and in doing so discovers a previously unexplored interest in plumbing.

Teacher’s perspective: Claire

I know that our Vocational Mentoring Exchange (VME) mentors and industry partners often wonder what impact they are having. I wonder if they know how many young people in my school community are impacted by watching Cloe step into this opportunity? I can’t help but think about the team we visited at Plumbing Apprenticeships Victoria in 2022 who also showed our young women just how welcome and supported they would be in their industry. They changed the way my students saw what was open to them in a way we could never achieve in a classroom on our own. I wonder if her mentor, Harriet, knows that she put Cloe in the mindset to see the opportunity? I wonder if Rochelle and Yui can ever measure the impact INLLEN are having on young people in our community? I’m so lucky to be so supported by exceptional community partners as a teacher at Glenroy College. It gives us the context to do work that really matters for our students.

Student’s Perspective: Cloe

Cloe commenced year 11 VCE VM in 2023 having spent the second half of 2022 deliberating between a Hair and Beauty focus or Animal Studies. She did the best she could to keep her options open while not feeling particularly confident imagining her future career. In term 3, she was paired with her VME mentor, who formed a strong and trusting connection in the classroom. The mentor group began to examine their career and industry goals with Harriet and ask each other what else was possible.

The VME Industry Tour gives our students opportunities to see and imagine careers that they don’t otherwise have access to and to hear powerful stories from employers. On our last stop, Aaron Malcolmson at New Plumbing Solutions took us through the journey to define and build a thriving workplace culture. “Our people are our greatest asset” he told the group. Cloe sat a little taller in her seat in the boardroom. Aaron spoke about employees owning the values, and what it means to live the company’s “we give a shit” mantra every day.

On the floor, our plumbing pre-apprentices worked together to fit the pipes and taps laid out to provide an authentic real-world experience. As I listened to the team trying to work out how to correct a mistake, I noticed Cloe totally absorbed in the same task at another station. Aaron quietly pointed out how well she had done while fielding questions from the group about his pink laces and other initiatives for men to signal their support to women in their trades. My group thought that was a pretty cool thing to do. Cloe took a photo with her friend in an excavator and saved it for her mum.

Back in class the following week, students prepared their mock interviews and Cloe passed me her elevator pitch. She asked me to read it, “but don’t read it aloud or tell anyone Miss.” She’d written about finding her passion and being inspired to become a plumber. “Don’t tell anyone yet” she reminded me. Cloe’s answer went on to explain how she was excited about the opportunity to be part of a team with really clear values and pride in their work. Her friends asked her what it was about; and with each person she told, her voice became a little louder. By the end of that week Cloe wore high vis to her mock interview, changed her TAFE enrolment and called NPS to ask Aaron whether she could do her SWL with them. At a school event, Cloe’s mum leaned across her table and beamed with pride as she showed me photos of her daughter in her high vis up and getting ready for SWL at 5:30 each morning. Cloe has now finished year 11 and set herself up for an incredible final year with a strong industry focus and supports all around her. She is on her way.

Employer’s Perspective: Aaron

Cloe’s experience becomes a genuine inspiration for others, contributing to a workplace where diversity isn’t just a goal but a lived reality.

Cloe joined NPS through the Inner Northern Local Learning and Employment Network (INLLEN) after a school visit to our factory sparked her interest in plumbing. Cloe’s journey is a personal testament to the impact of initiatives supporting women in plumbing. Recognizing the potential of all women in the workforce, NPS has provided an opportunity space where she can thrive. Cloe’s story isn’t just about breaking gender norms; it’s about an individual finding her passion and overcoming stereotypes in a field she is passionate about. As she continues her path in plumbing, Cloe’s story highlights the positive impact of initiatives encouraging women in the plumbing industry.


Cloe’s journey exemplifies the transformative impact of student work placement programs, mentorship, and industry exposure. The case study underscores the effectiveness of initiatives fostering inclusivity, breaking gender norms, and providing students with opportunities to explore diverse career pathways both inside and outside the classroom. As Cloe embarks on her final year with newfound focus and support, her story becomes a testament to the profound influence well-designed, and LLEN supported, school-industry partnerships can have in broadening the career aspirations of young people beyond current gender norms.