WHY WAS LARITA ACADEMY CREATED?
In 2019, Chairman of the LK Group of companies, Larry Kestelman, acted on his desire to develop a strategic and focused way to give back and make things better for people that were seeking help. Anita Pahor was appointed as the inaugural Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy for the group and charged with the task of spearheading the strategy. She surveyed all the CEOs and together they agreed that they wished to focus their combined efforts in supporting at-risk youth.
At that same time, Whitelion was grappling with how to address the findings of their own research. Young people had reported that they felt it was a lack of confidence, lack of opportunity, challenges to their resilience and lack of work experience that was holding them back from finding sustainable employment. However, finding opportunities for young people to be supported in the real world of work, in order to gain experience, skills and confidence, was not easy.
When Whitelion and the LK Group came together, the Larita Academy was born. The brainchild of Anita who realised that the LK Group could provide exactly what Whitelion was looking for to help at risk youth launch their pathway to work.
Larita Academy is an unconventional approach – it is experiential and has at its heart, a desire to make measurable impact in the lives of young Victorians who have experienced risk (and maybe one day more broadly across Australia).
A unique component of the Academy is that it was completely co-designed in a trust-based relationship between Whitelion and the LK Group. We want to acknowledge the team at Whitelion who have worked with us on every detail; from the module topics to the training modules to prepare the coaches and support crew, to the recruitment program to reach prospective participants, to selecting young people to consult to us along the way to ensure that the ‘consumer’ voice was heard. In particular, CEO Hang Vo, Project Lead, Pathways to Work Amy Marshall, Pathways to Work Support Worker Mark Chapman, and our Whitelion Youth Consultant Nasuha Nasser.
It’s been a privilege to build a unique response to the challenges of unemployment for at risk youth. This is a pilot and therefore we are learning every step of the way and iterating our model accordingly. One exciting recent development is exploring how the Larita Academy can contribute to Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) outcomes. Larita Academy modules such as Self-Agency, Working as a Team, Creativity, Innovation and Managing Stress and the Digital World speak to learning outcomes in the Personal Development Skills and Work-Related Skills strands of VCAL. That’s very cool and we can’t wait to explore this further!
CEO, Whitelion Youth Agency
“Whitelion is thrilled to be the inaugural partner for Larita Academy. The genuine partnership and co-design over the last year has culminated in a 3-day immersive program facilitated by real world leaders across the LK Group. The young people Whitelion support consistently ask that they be given a chance to reach their potential. Thank you, Larita Academy, for not just giving young people a chance but also believing in them. Larita Academy will offer positive role models, skills, and exposure to wide-ranging industries – a first in a unique academy format. We can’t wait to see the entrepreneur spirit in action!"
“On the one hand we had a group of accomplished business leaders who wanted to give back in a meaningful way, roll their sleeves up and engage directly with the people they wanted to support using their particular smarts. On the other hand, we had an organisation that specialises in supporting at risk youth saying that what was missing was a structured experience that connected young people with business leaders in an environment that could show them what is possible if they apply themselves, believe in themselves and put in the focussed work to figure out what their unique gifting is. It became obvious to me that each cohort had what the other needed and so the Larita Academy was born. I may have conceptualised the academy and its values but it was Larry Kestelman who mobilised his entire executive team and Hang Vo who put it on the Whitelion agenda. It’s a privilege to build this new initiative and I hope that it really does give at risk young people in Victoria what they have been asking for.”
“Youth unemployment has been a stubborn issue in Australia for some time now and so, if we want to make a difference, we need to try new things. It is not just the young people who are looking for work who need to try though – industry and support agencies all need to meet young people where they are at, share what we know, and go forward together. The Larita Academy is providing us all with that opportunity, and I am excited to be a part of it.”
“It was awesome being included in the planning process of the Larita Academy. I really appreciated their willingness to get the honest perspectives of young people. I think when people from different backgrounds collaborate, it tends to produce beautiful outcomes so I’m excited to see the programme come to life.”