Twenty-five years ago, Angela Toppin realised that as an educator more had to be done to address the disadvantage for rural and regional secondary school students in seeking tertiary education and further training in capital cities. What could be done to empower these students to broaden their career options and ‘give them wings to fly’?
Angela Toppin, a former Principal of Cairns State High School, who is very passionate about broadening opportunities for young people, developed the Business Liaison Association to bridge the gap between school leavers and the business community. For the past 25 years Ms Toppin has held the position of Chairperson alongside an Executive Committee consisting of dedicated industry professionals from Cairns and surrounding regions.
In the beginning Ms Toppin persevered, and as many of her colleagues in education would say, “She nagged some poor public servant in the Department of Education for so long they capitulated and agreed to provide ‘start-up’ funding of $2000”. So, in the first year the BLA raised $16 000 in corporate funding. The first corporate sponsors were: Department of Education, Cairns Port Authority (now Ports North) and Cairns Region Group Training (now Skill30 Australia). These wonderful sponsors have continually supported these initiatives for 25 years which has now increased to a total of 39 corporate sponsors!
Fast forward to 2018 and there is over 12,000 students participating in 37 programs and events, 47 awards and competitions (and growing) with an incredibly strong sponsorship base to support all this. The future is very sustainable with a passionate and committed team.
In 2018 the Business Liaison Association celebrated 25 years of incorporation and 25 years of ‘making a difference’ for young people. Their mission statement is “To encourage and provide secondary schools with relevant up to date knowledge, skills and resources to meet the current and future demands of the business community”.
The business community is the BLA’s most valued collaborator and as a result offers annual awards and competitions, industry breakfasts and visiting expert programs. The awards are designed to include financial bursaries, scholarships and prizes to assist secondary school students in FNQ to further advance career and study opportunities. The BLA is most renowned for hosting the annual Youth & Careers Expo for past eighteen years.
More than 3,500 students throughout FNQ attend to obtain the latest information on tertiary and vocational courses offered by an ever-increasing number of institutions throughout Australia. The Youth & Careers Expo will be held at the Fred Moule Pavilion, Cairns Show Grounds on Thursday 23rd May, 2019.
This year is set to be exciting, Ms Toppin and her team - the BLA Executive Committee, Executive Officer Ms Kerrie Stanley and Administration Officer Ms Kym Copetti are sincerely grateful for the ongoing support from their corporate sponsors, supporters and volunteers who make ‘great things happen for our young people’ by value adding to their experiences and opportunities.
The BLA Team have big plans for 2019, so stay tuned to see what is happening or call Kerrie or Kym for information on becoming part of the BLA!
One of Ms Toppin’s favourite quotes from Walt Disney “If you can DREAM IT you can DO IT!” The Business Liaison Association is there to make this happen!