Tymekka Locke would love to be a barista when she leaves school, but like many of her classmates at the Mackay District Special School, she is not sure where to start.
- A virtual learning program has been rolled out to 17 regional and rural schools throughout Queensland
- The Mackay District Special School says it's boosted confidence and helped students feel prepared for the workforce
- The skills taught include cafe work, how to cross the road safely and withdrawing money
But a virtual learning program, helping teach vital skills from the safety of a classroom, might just be the answer.
Over the past six months, students have been using headsets and screens to learn pedestrian safety skills, how to withdraw money from an ATM and the art of making different coffees.
"We do coffees, or road safety, or [go to] the bank," Tymekka said.
Mackay District Special School teacher Ria Erlank said the program was giving students like Tymekka the chance to gain skills and confidence for the workforce.
"It's absolutely awesome, they take to it like a duck to water," Ms Erlank said.
"There aren't many opportunities for them to access equipment, like the barista equipment for them to practice … so they can hit the ground running."
A confidence boost
The system was facilitated by the Endeavour Foundation, which worked with the Queensland University of Technology to develop the software.
It has been rolled out to 17 schools across regional and rural Queensland.
Endeavour Foundation service design partner Chris Beaumont said there was high demand for this kind of learning – and it was yielding results.
"The first benefit we see with the people who use it is it gives them confidence," he said.
"When we spoke to families and students about what they want, the virtual barista was one of them … and it's by far one of our most popular programs.
"We start with class-room based learning and then it might be after a couple of weeks of learning the theory, then we'll jump into the simulation."
Ms Erlank said virtual learning promised an exciting future in the disability education sector.
"We can utilise [it] to help our students … transition into the community and life after school," she said.
"It is vital."