Captains of Education Part 6: Mark Hands
CEO, Australian Industry Trade College
Robina is home to the very first campus of the Australian Industry Trade College (AITC) – an independent school quite unlike any other.
CEO of AITC, Mark Hands, chose to open the first campus in Robina because of easy accessibility for young people and their parents, its proximity to industry and welcoming environment.
When asked why he opened AITC, Mark explains he was initially approached by a group of industry leaders in 2006.
“Industry wanted to improve the standard of apprentices, and the quality of young people coming into industry,” he said.
“There was a need to create alternative education systems to fit employers’ needs.
“I was approached about setting up a new kind of school, and interviewed hundreds of employers to find out what they wanted in their apprentices. We built the school based on those needs.”
Mark has a diverse background, having worked in construction, as well as in the education industry. He was Principal of an independent Prep-to-Year 12 school for 16 years before being approached to set up AITC.
Mark said employers generally wanted four things from their employees:
“They wanted technically talented young people, who had completed high school, and spent a large amount of time in industry,” he said.
“They also wanted young people who had been through a strong values and character-based curriculum.
“These four things were extremely hard to find at the time. Very few, if any, schools were doing it. What we always say at AITC is we are by industry, for industry.”
Looking back, AITC originally looked quite different to the impressive Robina campus of today.
“We had one desk, a computer that didn’t work, and two-and-a-half employees – one of them being me,” Mark said.
“The concept of our school was laughed at. I was ringing people every day and asking what kind of school people wanted.
“We started in a small office in Bundall, and after that moved into a shopping centre at Burleigh.
“We then had the opportunity to move onto a development-ready site in the M1 Business Precinct in Robina, which is where our campus is to this day. We built the campus in 2011, and moved in that same year.
“AITC started with an idea, and now we have grown to over 800 students across four campuses: Robina, Redlands, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast.”
Mark said AITC was a unique school because it provided two outcomes – education and employment.
He explained the model of AITC was something completely different to what most young people and parents were used to.
“It is one of few, if not the only, school in Australia where over 90 per cent of students achieve a Queensland Certificate of Education and a career outcome,” Mark said.
“We are not a vocational school – we don’t just offer one woodwork course for students to choose. Our young people graduate with both a high school education and a career opportunity, and are consistently employed.”
Mark said he believed Robina was the perfect choice for opening the very first AITC campus.
“Robina is a great fit for AITC, as it is such a significant employment hub,” he said.
“We are close to the train station, our campus has excellent internet connectivity, and we are centrally located in the heart of the Gold Coast – a major urban hub.
“It is easy for employers to know who and where we are, and it is easy for our young people and their parents to access the college.
“We have had some young people who have caught the train all the way from Brisbane and the bus from northern New South Wales to attend our college.
“AITC looks all over Australia for employers, and many of them are located right here on the Gold Coast – in and around Robina – so the area has been very friendly and welcoming of us.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of ATIC and I am equally proud of our first campus in Robina.
“We look forward to being around for a very long time, and expanding across Queensland and Australia.”
Main photo – AITC CEO Mark Hands
Photo 2 – Mark Hands with AITC students Reece Simpson and Ella Collings, and Team Leader Amy Thompson
Photo 4 – AITC Students Caryn Wakelin and Jesse Campbell
insideR’s Captains of Education Series
Be sure to check out our previous issues of insideR where we spoke to:
- Sherelle French, The French Beauty Academy’s founder
- Bond University’s new Executive Dean, Health Sciences & Medicine, Nick Zwar
- Somerset College Headmaster of 10 years, Craig Bassingthwaighte
- All Saints Anglican College Headmaster of 17 years, Patrick Wallas
- Robina High Principal, Julie Warwick.
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