HORSHAM College will start a Hands on Learning program next week that aims to improve learning for disengaged students. Twenty of the college’s year seven to 10 students will spend one day a week working on construction projects, including a barbecue area, vegetation programs and landscaping. The college is one of 23 schools across the state to run the Hands on Learning program. It reduces the unemployment rate – those not studying or working – for students aged between 15 and 24 from 10.8 per cent nationally to 2.2 per cent. Principal Frank Spiel said the program, supported by the Wimmera Southern Mallee Local Learning and Employment Network, would boost the students’ confidence. “This is a group of students at risk of disengaging because they can’t quite see the relevance in the subject matter they are learning and can’t connect to it,” he said. “There are a number of students who want to basically get their hands dirty and do something physical. “This program is not a cop-out; it is a privilege and when the students undertake the program they have to show evidence that they are engaged with their other studies.” Mr Spiel said the program showed a shift in education provided for different students. “We are much more aware of the fact that we can’t classify all students as the same,” he said. “At Horsham College we provide for a full range of students with a big focus on improving learning engagement in many different ways.” College teacher and former fitter and turner Leon Barents will oversee the program. He said Hands on Learning would have helped him as a student. “I left school at the end of year 11 to do an apprenticeship because I really didn’t have a connection with school and thought I was wasting my time,” he said. “The program will give the students a connection with not only the school but also the community, because after we get set up we hope to do more and more work outside the school.” Mr Barents said anyone wanting to volunteer with the program or donate building supplies could call him on 5381 7711.