From shy 15-year-old work placement student, to confident trainee with future aspirations in human relations – Christina Bennell is living proof of the potential of a growing partnership between Tronox and Australind Senior High School.
Tronox, the world’s second-largest producer of titanium dioxide (a widely-used white pigment), has a finishing plant at Australind and a long-term relationship with the local high school.
But that link has become even stronger in the past two years with the inception of an Aboriginal School-Based Trainee Program for female students.
Christina is the first student to benefit from the program and Tronox Manager, Strategic Operations, Lyn Bluett, said watching her progress had been exciting.
“Being in mining, resources and manufacturing, a lot of our employees are male,” Bluett explained.
“We thought by partnering with the local high school it was an opportunity to provide an insight into what opportunities could be available and what future career paths could be of interest to females – and especially the local Indigenous community.
“Christina was our first student through the system and she started with us on kind of a ‘try before you buy’ arrangement doing some work experience before the traineeship started. That gave us a really good understanding of where she wanted to go.
“Seeing Christina’s growth has been a very proud experience. She came to us and basically didn’t say boo to anyone but we’ve seen her grow in her confidence right through to pitching her idea for an art project to the site director
“She ran that, organised it and was successful to get [the site director’s] buy-in on that. It was really good seeing her growth with that.”
Christina, whose work experience provided exposure to engineering, laboratory work, drafting and finance, says she knew quickly that she wanted to forge a career in human relations.
She is now an HR and payroll trainee and has completed Certificates I and II in business.
“Coming here when I was 15, I was really shy and as you can see my confidence has grown massively,” she said.
“Being here and having support from the school as well as Lyn, brought my confidence out majorly and now I can talk to whoever I like.”
In fact, so much as Christina’s confidence increased that she’s now mentoring the next wave of Australind students entering the Tronox ranks.
“Christina is now mentoring Sharmari who is our new Year 11 coming in,” Australind Senior High School’s Workplace Transition Coordinator Fiona Blackmore said.
“Next year hopefully Sharmari will be the mentor and we’ll have another student coming in. It’s just a great industry liaison we’ve got.”