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The Sunny Futures program in Brisbane’s south sees health students training in a real ICU

To the average passer-by, a shipping container sitting on Sunnybank State High School grounds in Brisbane looks like it may belong on a building site.

But there aren’t any construction tools inside, instead, a fully functional intensive care unit (ICU) fills the container.

It’s one of many originally built for remote communities to use during the pandemic in the case of extreme outbreaks.

Fortunately, they were never needed for that purpose and were instead donated to training facilities around the state. Sunnybank SHS managed to score one.

The unit is used as part of the school’s Sunny Futures program, which is essentially Year 13 for graduating students who are unsure about what to do after school.

Principal Leah Fountaine said health was one of the main employers in the area, so it made sense to train students for that industry.

She reached out to the company that built them and got one delivered to campus.

The shipping container ICUs were originally designed to be sent to remote communities if called for during the COVID-19 pandemic. (ABC News: Jessica Rendall)

‘It’s something that you can’t really simulate’

Past student Sonia Pratap used the ICU during her time in the Sunny Futures program and said the training was invaluable.

“It gives us a heads-up on what we’re getting into and an idea of ​​how to do things, gain that bit of experience,” Ms Pratap said.

“Not many other schools have [an ICU] and it was just awesome experience to gain before heading out into the field.

“You can’t go to the hospital every time and [learn] in an ICU, yet we have one built in our school, so it’s pretty incredible.”

The program has helped more than 300 students like Ms Pratap connect with further study or employment post school.

She now works in disability support. Her boss, Roddy Vasquez, said having graduates from the program in the industry had proven beneficial.

“Having a young mind come into the job offers that fresh young perspective,” Mr Vasquez said.

“Sonia’s led the way and hopefully she encourages future support workers and show’s them that there are opportunities out there.”

A young woman sits with Leah Fountaine reading from a booklet, both smiling.
Leah Fountaine (right) says the program makes sense as health is a major jobs provider in Brisbane’s south. (ABC News: Jessica Rendall)

Jeremy Rota manages the training courses held in the ICU and said the unit offered a more enhanced training experience for students.

“It’s just a fantastic set-up that’s real to life — it’s something that you can’t really simulate in another way, so it’s really great to have all these facilities available to the students,” Mr Rota said.

The ICU is also used by migrant and refugee women who are training in aged care and disability services.

The unit offers hands-on training in taking blood pressure readings, showering clients, hoisting them up onto beds, and other medical needs.

Three women clean medical equipment.
The facility is also used by refugee and migrant women entering the disability services and aged care workforce. (ABC News: Jessica Rendall)

Trainer Tim Early said the program had helped many women find rewarding work after arriving in Australia.

“A few of them have said to me that they feel more confident now to work in areas they could never see themselves qualifying for previously,” Mr Early said.

“The facility has definitely given them that confidence to go out into the workforce and not be afraid by what they might face, because they’ve essentially already seen similar technology before.”

Helping hundreds ‘find a pathway’

From ages 16 to 61, the Sunny Futures program has helped hundreds of people in the Sunnybank community and surrounds find employment.

Ninety-eight per cent of students that go through the program find full-time employment or enroll in further education.

Head of the Sunny Futures program, Robyn Peddler, said the work was extremely fulfilling.

“We don’t only help just our own students — we’ve also case-managed about 300 community participants who have come to us over the last three years, and we help those into jobs or into further training as well.”

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