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Author: Craig Eardley

The Greater backs AgLads to build skills for young people & farmers

The Greater Building Society is getting behind a program to give young people in the New England skills in agriculture and future job opportunities as well as overcome local skills shortages. 

The Greater has today provided Armidale-based BackTrack with $110,000 in funding for its AgLads Program. Greater Building Society head of marketing and distribution Matt Hingston joined Armidale branch manager Wendy Ng, BackTrack founder Bernie Shakeshaft and the 15 current AgLads program participants at a local work experience training farm in Armidale to announce the funding.

Mr Hingston said the funding will allow the recruitment of a full time co-ordinator this year, assist with program related costs and allow researchers at University of New England to formally evaluate the program.

Mr Shakeshaft said that under the AgLads program, young people work on local training farms.They acquire accredited skills in fencing, stock handling, heavy machinery and other rural operations. Some participants go on to paid BackTrack contracting teams on farms and gain Certification in Agriculture.

He said the funding was vital to the program continuing. He thanked The Greater for supporting BackTrack’s approach of community solutions to community issues.

“AgLads gives young people who have lost their way an opportunity to reconnect with their education and training, to become work ready, find jobs, lead happy and productive lives and participate fully in the community,” Mr Shakeshaft said.

“When you change the life outcomes for these youth you improve the overall quality of community life,” he said.

Ms Ng surprised the AgLads participants by presenting them each with a $50 LifeSaver Account. She said LifeSaver is The Greater’s new youth savings account offering a high interest rate and transaction fee free banking for people under 25.

“As a customer owned banking organisation, The Greater puts its profits back into great products and helping to make our local community stronger and more productive, rather than giving it to shareholders,” Ms Ng said.

The funding has come from the $1.5 million The Greater committed to spend in the New England over 10 years when it merged with Armidale Building Society. Other projects have included part funding of disability accommodation at Armidale’s Walker House and a new operating theatre bed at Armidale Hospital.

BackTrack is a not for profit organisation, established in 2006 operating under Jobs Australia Enterprises. It also operates four other programs – The Paddock Classroom, Iron Man Welders, Paws Up, and Links to Learning. The Greater has been helping the people of the New England with their banking for 45 years. It has branches throughout NSW and South East Queensland with local branches in Armidale, Tamworth and Gunnedah.

Media information:  Michelle Rottcher (BackTrack) on 0435 096 704 or Craig Eardley (Greater) on 0437477493.