Mission Australia runs the country's first social enterprise automotive repair shop, Synergy Auto Repairs.
Not only does the shop offer a full suite of services by qualified and experienced professionals, the concept is addressing the growing skills and labour shortage in the repair industry while also putting a brake on the cycle of crime for young students.
Run by Mission Australia in North Melbourne since 2014, the service offers positive, long-term outcomes through a flexible accredited training program, real work experience and support for young people with a history of motor vehicle related offences.
By harnessing their interest in cars, it helps young juvenile offenders to build a career in a field that matches their interests, get their lives back on track and into an industry with diminishing millennial workforce participation.
Mission Australia social enterprise program manager Troy Crellin encourages Melbournians to book in for a socially minded repair or service.
“Whether your car needs detailing, or full automotive body repair, Synergy provides a unique opportunity to do good.
"Every customer that comes through our roller doors is also making an investment in the futures of vulnerable young people. Their support means students can turn their lives around and engage in a practical alternative to crime, corrections and detention.
"Our students are young people who are passionate about cars. They have made some poor choices, for many they don’t see a pathway out of the cycle of trauma.
"The automotive industry is an ageing workforce and this offers an effective way to encourage more young people to take on a career in the auto repair industry."
A recent independent evaluation found participants experience strong improvements in overall well-being, social stability and a willingness to work and stay away from negative influences during their time at Synergy, as well as developing the skills needed to build a sustainable career pathway.
In addition to gaining the practical experience and employability skills needed to commence a panel beating or spray-painting apprenticeship, participants may also work toward completing an industry-recognised accreditation in panel beating or spray painting.
Young people also gain on-the-job training and work experience alongside qualified and experienced auto industry professionals and are supported by a team of training and employment specialists.
“Not only is the service a positive way to reduce motoring related offences, but it also provides a pathway to independence and breaks the cycle of crime.
"Given students are vulnerable and often have complex needs, it’s encouraging to see that almost three quarters of participants are now in further full-time work or education. It’s about providing skills for life as much as it is skills for the smash repairs workshop,” Crellin added.