On the road to a brighter future

The big red training track on its Outback run.
The big red training track on its Outback run.

HOSPITALITY lessons held inside a $2.6 million truck with a teacher who travels between five outback Queensland high schools have boosted rural student graduation and job prospects.

The Outback College of Hospitality, or big red truck as it's also known, goes between schools in Longreach, Winton, Barcaldine, Blackall and Aramac offering big-city facilities to central west students.

Purpose built with a commercial kitchen, marquee and seating for 800, the mobile truck trains 20 students at a time and has led to a 15 per cent increase in children in the cluster of schools gaining their high school certificates.

It has also seen a 57 per cent increase in the number of students taking up the course leading to jobs in local tourism sector which has become the major employer since drought impacted agriculture in the region.

Splitting the running costs of about $80,000 a year between them, the schools also provide a teacher who travels with the truck on the road for most of the term, spending two weeks at each school.

Longreach State High School principal Brendan Krueger said the truck was an Australian first and was helping keep youngsters at local high schools and providing pathways into tourism jobs, thanks to chefs who often came out to use it and employed students for big events in the area.

"The big thing is the drought that western Queensland experienced means that agriculture has been on the decline, so the tourism industry is what is saving many remote and rural communities," he said.

"Any cafe or restaurant that you walk through from Winton to Longreach to Blackall, if there are three people working there, two will have gone through this program in the last five years," he said.

The initiative won the Senior Years category of the Department of Education and Training's Showcase for Excellence in Schools for 2017.