Almost 30 young
people with mild intellectual disabilities received accredited,
employment-related training through a project offered by Wollongong
City Council and a Registered Training Organisation. Work placements
were organised and participants had access to a Job Club for three
months after the project concluded. A significant number of the
young people gained the qualification and are now employed.
Council provides a range of services to local young people. Research
showed there was a gap in the provision of training and employment
related services for young people with disabilities, particularly
those with low self-esteem, and poor numeracy and literacy skills,
and those at school in classes for mildly intellectually disabled
The aim of the
Strategic Pilot Project was to increase participants' employability
through developing self-esteem, team building skills and budgeting
contracted a local Registered Training Organisation, Essentra, a
community-based organisation with 15 years training experience in
the disability sector, to run a VETAB accredited course called Employability
Skills: Becoming a Worker.
specifically targeted young people with mild intellectual disabilities,
the majority of whom had a learning disability. Most participants
were aged between 18 and 20, and all were early school leavers.
They had all experienced difficulties in traditional or mainstream
curriculum, which had been developed by Essentra for young disadvantaged
job-seekers, provided training in key areas such as:
- The team
presentation and development
- Finding that
- Work ethics:
workers' rights and responsibilities
health and safety
communication and personal effectiveness
as a worker
- Money management
- Work trials
At the beginning
of the project trainers interviewed participants to find out what
each person wanted to achieve from the course. Before the course
started, participants and chosen support people were invited to
an introductory session to familiarise themselves with course content.
Support persons were encouraged to help participants maintain their
interest in the course.
The group participated
in a work trial at the end of the project, as well as in a Job Club
that provided support to the group for an additional ten weeks.
The pilot was
very successful with two courses run throughout the funded period.
The first course started with seven students and five older clients
from outside the target group. There were 14 participants in the
second course, 11 of whom attained the competencies required for
coordinator described the learning environment as a highly motivated
atmosphere. Attendance was excellent, with commitment displayed
by all participants, most of whom turned up half an hour before
From the first
group of 12 participants, one found a job half way through the course
and continued to do the course outside work time. Work trials with
the others were very successful, with participants undertaking supported
work experience at retail shops such as K-Mart, local small business
and the kiosk at the local hospital.
Although the outcomes from the first group were positive, some participants
were unable to maintain their employment. This was mainly due to
a lack of social skills, which emerged during situations of pressure
in the work environment. Therefore, in the second course, there
was increased emphasis on social skills development. As a result,
participants from the second course were more confident and more
successful at keeping jobs.
Participants' confidence increased through learning new skills and
through contact with their trainers, who monitored and assessed
their progress and provided regular positive feedback.
All participants increased their level of employability and left
the course with a greater knowledge of the workplace and how to
interact with it. This was achieved through supported work placements,
as well as mock interviews and assistance with resume writing.
For example, one participant, who left school in year nine and had
been in a special unit for students with intellectual disabilities
at school, completed a work placement at a spray painting business.
He has since gained a place in a pre-apprenticeship program at the
local TAFE. To do so, he competed successfully with other mainstream
applications and did a written exam.
succeeded due to the rapport between participants and trainers and
to the intensive support given to participants during the course,
throughout their work placement and afterwards in the form of a
The Job Club
met each week and provided participants with long-term back-up,
personal support and job-seeking resources. This part of the project
was instrumental in helping the target group develop social interaction
skills and friendships.
placed on establishing real life situations wherever possible, e.g.
going to a local second hand shop to buy interview clothes. The
simulations, work experience and monetary responsibilities gave
the young people confidence in their skills to achieve education
and employment outcomes.
interviews and job sessions were video taped and replayed to the
whole group. This medium was important as the participants could
see themselves doing what they had set out to achieve. It increased
their confidence and provided the opportunity to discuss problems
The adult environment
of the course provided many of the students with their first positive
learning experience. They were treated as responsible individuals
and the application of adult learning principles, teamwork sessions
and experiential learning assisted their progress. Sessions on dealing
with aggression and learning how to be assertive allowed participants
to work on social skills, making their long-term employment options
that arose during the Strategic Pilot Project related to personal
and social skills issues. Some could be resolved in the course,
while others, such as drug and alcohol issues, needed alternative
would place greater emphasis on communication and social competencies.