Looking at the ability first
Helen is a good listener, it’s a skill she prioritizes when helping people to find work, making sure she knows her clients well and understands their individual needs. Helen works as an employment consultant for EGF Solutions in Geelong and is part of the Ticket to Work network alongside other key services for young people with disabilities, including local schools, the Geelong Region Local Learning and Employment Network (GRLLEN), National Disability Coordination Officer Program (NDCO) and TAFE. Helen credits the Ticket to Work network with helping transition young people with a disability into employment pathways, particularly through the After School Jobs pilot. As an employment consultant working in the pilot, Helen was able to collaborate with schools, students, parents and employers to create opportunities for two student participants, Kyle and Danielle.
It was important to Helen to be an active member of the Ticket to Work network in a real way, ‘not just a bum on a seat, but having some accountability too, giving something back to the group.’ Being part of the After School Job pilot gave Helen an opportunity to work with the group to find tailored work solutions for Kyle and Danielle, getting to know each student through the network’s Passport to Employment program, helping deliver work skills preparation and leading them to take up their first After School job. The process of building those relationships with the school, students and families, was key in successfully finding the right employment opportunity for Kyle and Danielle. “I need to know as much as I can about them, by listening, to really get to know them, their skills, their dreams, their ideas and hobbies,” says Helen, “The more you know about a person, the better you can focus on a placement.”
Helen believes employment is more successful when young people know what they want to do and have a genuine interest to work in a particular industry or role. She tries to find employers that can offer opportunities that suit the young person, whether through relating to a hobby or desire to learn a particular set of skills to move them closer to their goals. Helen works on the ethos of not looking at the disability, but looking at ability first. “It makes it easier to create a role if I don’t have any preconceived ideas of what they can’t do,” she says. Helen strongly feels it is important that young people with disabilities have opportunities to get out there and learn real life skills through work. She has seen first-hand the benefit this brings; “It’s not playing around, it’s the real world, with real life situations that can happen. This gives them maturity a lot earlier compared to some their peers who haven’t had that experience in the workplace.”