The 2010 NCVR report details evidence that young people with a disability can thrive in open employment when prepared and supported while at school through a coordinated approach. Adversely, scoping research undertaken by “Ticket to Work” identifies that young people with a disability are not successfully transitioning from school into further training and/ or employment and are more likely than their peers to disengage prior to completing school and be socially isolated. By comparison, Gateway LLEN’s application of the SWL program ensures that students with a disability are placed with a supportive employer who is committed to assisting the student gain meaningful and positive placement outcomes.
A shining example of this approach is the success of a Foundation Level VCAL student from Heatherwood School. Heatherwood is a specialist school for students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and works specifically to equip students with “an education that enables them to grow into independent, confident capable people; fully equipped to make their own way in the world”.
Providing further context, the student “Anna” has been studying some units in Certificate II Hospitality and was seeking a local hospitality placement that would support her vocational studies. Anna has significant social anxiety, is from a CALD background and her teachers were unsure initially whether she would cope in open employment. Considering these secondary factors, Gateway LLEN actively sourced an employer who not only valued the concept of SWL but extended this belief to supported placements for at-risk cohorts.
Owned and operated by head chef Michael, Red Cup Café is a very busy, hip, urban Café with young and friendly staff and a small gourmet menu. Despite not having hosted a student with additional needs, Michael could see the merit in a supported placement and was keen to host Anna. Gateway LLEN met with Michael and Heatherwood’s Hospitality coordinator several times to map assigned tasks that Anna would be capable of performing and aligning these to her vocational studies. Anna and her guardian also met with Michael prior to placement and returned for a second visit to tour the café and meet other staff.
These measures ensured that Anna would be as comfortable as possible in her SWL placement, that Michael had a clear understanding of its complexities and that Anna’s tasks would all be relevant learning opportunities for her.
Initially Anna was very shy, but keen to learn and a hard worker. Staff at the café were very supportive and as Anna’s confidence grew, so did her skill level. She was initially placed “back house’ under Michael’s direct supervision performing basic food preparation, cleaning etc. as Anna’s social anxiety meant she was reluctant to interact with customers. Gateway LLEN continued to actively support both the employer and the student in this period by regularly debriefing with both onsite and as Anna’s competence grew rapidly, Michael noted that he and the other staff were extremely impressed at how quickly she learnt new tasks, managed her time and took directions. Anna started to ask for more tasks and was comfortable with front of house work in addition to her kitchen duties.
Within three months of her placement commencing, Anna was offered ongoing casual work and in addition to her regular SWL hours, she is now employed casually on Saturdays. Red Cup continue to provide a supportive workplace and Michael has stated many times that the business is committed to providing Anna a valid training and employment pathway. Such is this commitment that Anna will return to Red Cup café in 2017 but this time in a supported SBAT arrangement. It is Gateway LLEN’s belief that this case study demonstrates the hidden, qualitative aspect of the SWL program and the long-term benefits of Anna’s placement far extend from an initial 40hour SWL opportunity.