Disability Works Australia

 

A Tea Tree Gully Council initiative to establish traineeships in horticulture has opened new doors for


Katie, Scott and Sam


Katie, Scott and SamIn January 2001 the Executive Manager Organisational Development at the City of Tea Tree Gully (TTG) contacted DWA to discuss developing a process for the recruitment of people with a disability. After several meetings three positions were identified in Parks Department. TTG and DWA agreed to a coordinated process to ensure a smooth transition of people with a disability into employment.

They established a training program with the prime objective and focus of providing people with a disability the opportunity to achieve a formal workplace qualification, which is nationally accredited and transferable across industry. Because each of the trainees worked at the Council on this program for periods ranging from 12 months to 2 years this also provided them the opportunity to establish a stable work history which should greatly assist them for future career aspirations.

Before the employment process began it was important that managers, supervisors and coworkers were educated on disability awareness. The TTG Organisational Development Adviser initiated training for all 60 staff in the department and this was delivered by DWA.

DWA broadcast the vacancies to all Disability Employment Services and pre-screened suitable applicants. MJP Employment Service referred the suitable candidates. Before the trainees started, TTG Council through MJP Employment Services engaged an Occupational Therapist to conduct a workplace assessment. By looking at each trainee's particular abilities and analysing the Job Descriptions and work environments, the therapist was able to provide everyone involved with advice on how to ensure the trainees could work safely and effectively.

Katie was selected for her previous experience and qualifications. She had left school at 15 after struggling, but knew one thing - that she wanted to work in horticulture. She completed a 6-month GreenCorps program run by Minda Incorporated through its employment service MJP. This course was specifically for people with intellectual or learning difficulties and consisted of a number of community based projects including plantings along the Southern Express Way, a boardwalk at the Hallet Cove Conservation Park and regeneration of sand dunes at Hove. Katie then went on to another MJP run project in which she completed her Certificate 2 in Horticulture. After some short term jobs as landscaping contractor, fencing and cleaning, MJP helped her gain a position with a large horticultural contractor in their garden crew. With this employer she had responsibility for the maintenance of gardens in the new Golden Grove development, experience that has proved invaluable in her new role.

Although only of slight build and having difficulty with literacy, Katie's passion and work ethic has always impressed employers including the TTG council. She was able to complete Certificate 3 in Horticulture whilst taking more of a leadership role in the new team.

The other 2 trainees completed the team and started a few months later.

After completing school at Woodville Special School, Sam worked for a short time in a service station and then as a car cleaner with a crash repair shop. Sam has always been keen to be active, including competing twice in the Solar Bike challenge from Alice Springs to Adelaide. So when he was offered the traineeship with TTG after months of unemployment, the fact he had to catch the train at 5.30 am each morning to get there didn't matter. Sam is enjoying the work and, although he has an intellectual disability, is coping well with the classroom component of the training being run by Maxima Group Training Services.

Scott also was glad of the opportunity to complete a horticultural traineeship. Although having mainly an administrative background, he had been finding it difficult to find employment because of his hearing impairment. Most of the positions he had been applying for required him to use the phone, which for him is difficult. So a new door has opened with TTG Council who have already recognised the potential of Scott's previous experience and are looking at ways of involving him in putting together site plans for the horticultural teams.

All three trainees have started their off the job training with Maxima Group Training who, with advice from MJP, have tailored the program to suit each individual's particular learning needs. To date they have all completed their Senior First Aid Certificate and Traffic Zone Management Training. TTG Council is aware of the value of employing people with disabilities and is particularly keen to ensure that as a City, and as an employer, it is accessible to people with disabilities, be they rate payers or potential employees.

Congratulations to the City of Tea Tree Gully on seeing good business sense in employing people with disabilities and following through with a process that DWA considers as best practice.

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