Stepping up to employment with GSI

Since 1958, Good Samaritan Industries (GSI) has been focused on providing employment opportunities for people living with disabilities. This year, GSI has established a new program addressing the transition from school to post school employment for young people living with disabilities.

The program is called the School Transition Employment Program – or STEP. This initiative is co-ordinated by STEP project manager, Tanya Matulich, with Danielle Congden since April of this year, having received a grant from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Under STEP, 100 work experience places were created within the various arms of GSI, a number that has quickly bloomed to 150 placements within the first year of the program’s inception.

According to the most recent report on labour force participation among people living with disabilities, produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2012, from 1993–2012 the rate of labour force participation for working age people with disabilities has remained relatively stable at just above 50%, whereas labour force participation for working age people without disabilities has increased by over 6%.

dsc_0013While there are many contributing factors to this disparity, Tanya and Danielle identified the lack of suitable transition options from school to employment as one of the significant problems they see in this sector.

GSI has partnered with schools and education support centres around Perth to provide work experience programs that are consistent with curriculum requirements and provide essential opportunities for students to experience workplace environments and responsibilities. Work placements are currently available in three industry areas: warehouse, retail and administration.

STEP also includes the opportunity for promising work experience students to transition into School-Based Traineeships.

“A School-Based Traineeship will run from 12 to 18 months. Within that period, [students] engage in nationally recognised training so, whether it‘s a Certificate II in Retail, across the retail stores, or a Certificate II in Warehouse Operations in our warehouse, while they’re on the job they will be learning,” Danielle explained.

Trainees are employed by GSI one day a week and have observational visits from trainers to ensure they are completing the requirements of their certificate. Students are recommended for traineeships when they are seen to be excelling in their work experience placements.

There are currently 13 students signed up for traineeships with seven already underway. The traineeship is a significant undertaking. It requires an eight hour employment commitment, as well as course work.

“Everyone really needs to be on board, the student, their family, school and support staff,” Danielle said.

Despite the newness of STEP, there have already been 13 transitions to employment out of the work experience program.

Emily Atkinson is one student, who has found employment with GSI’s café. She has been attending the café in a work experience function for the past few months and, as she will leave high school at the end of this year, she was offered an employment opportunity.

Emily said since she signed up to STEP she has grown in confidence and has had the opportunity to learn and meet new people. Hospitality has been Emily’s area of interest for some time and this job gives her the opportunity to work in a field she really enjoys.

Already the program has seen success with students developing greater confidence and learning about how employment works.

“Ideally we would have other community organisations and businesses involved in offering placements in the future,” Tanya said.

STEP Enrolments are now open for 2017. For more information email step@gsi.org.au or call 9463 0560.

Elaenor Nield

Top image: Emily Atkinson has found employment in the GSI Cafe, thanks to her STEP work experience placement.

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