By Luke Voogt
After becoming a teenage mother and dropping out in Year 10, Norlane’s Danelle Vanos faced the daunting challenge of re-entering the workforce at age 24.
Danelle gave birth to son Logan at 17 and a few years later became a full time carer for her mother, who has a degenerative brain disease.
“I wanted to be around for him when he was younger,” she told The Indy on Monday.
“But he’s old enough now and I need to work on my life to better his.”
Danelle had no work experience, aside from delivering catalogues, while looking after Logan – mostly as a single parent.
“I’ve always struggled with social anxiety,” she said.
“I never left the house – I was so depressed. I had nothing to work on and nothing to look forward to.
“Nowhere really wants to hire you if you’ve got no qualifications or experience.”
But a Barwon Water traineeship through Geelong’s Northern Futures has given her the confidence to pursue work.
“If I hadn’t got up that morning and gone to Northern Futures I would probably still be at home,” she said.
Danelle got a first-hand look at four departments and helped with the water authority’s myriad of contracts.
“It was amazing to see,” she said. “I thought that water just comes out of the tap but there’s so much more that goes on behind the scenes.”
Danelle completed her Certificate III in Business during the eight month job and met “the people I needed to meet”.
She said Barwon Water was very flexible when she had to care for Logan.
“Everyone here is so positive and friendly,” she said. “I would love to work here again.”
She finished the traineeship on 2 May and hoped to find work at a florist or in the community with her newfound confidence.
“Now I’ve got something on my resume,” she said.
Danelle said Northern Future’s work was vital in Geelong’s north.
“I see every day that people are struggling,” she said. “I’ve been lucky to have so much support but so many people don’t.”
But the gig was no free ride. “You’ve got to help yourself,” Danelle said.
Danelle worked for Barwon Water as part of municipal alliance G21’s Geelong Regional Opportunities for Work (GROW) program.
Last week G21 published its ‘report card’ on GROW, which said it had produced 145 jobs in the 2015/16 financial year.
According to statistics from 22 of GROW’s 58 signatories, the program had caused a spending shift of 9.34 per cent, or $23.88 million, to local procurement.
This meant one job for every $140,000, according to GROW director Anne O’Brien.
“But it’s only just the beginning,” she said.
GROW aims to create a seven per cent spending shift in the whole region by 2020, bringing $1 billion and 2500 jobs to the region.
“Imagine when we have hundreds of signatories,” Ms O’Brien said. “It’s absolutely achievable.”