Industry Insights into Disability Support Services

Do you love helping people? Why not become a disability support worker? 

Thanks to the recently established National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), health care and social assistance was expected to deliver a quarter of a million new jobs by 2024, although this was before Covid.  https://lmip.gov.au/ 

Gateways Support Services and Encompass Community Services are currently recruiting with entry-level positions in the Geelong area. More good news is that you do not need a qualification but must be eager to work alongside people with a disability trying to live their best lives.

Passion and a great attitude are all you need to get started, as Jacinta Randall from Encompass and Bronwyn Sizer from Gateways told an online industry jobseeker forum hosted by the Gordon Skills and Job Centre on 18th February. 

Recruits can often work flexible hours with shifts which fit around study, children’s school pick up times or part-time work. They can especially suit career changers, parents returning to work and tertiary students studying allied health or teaching.  

It is essential to research organisations to see which suits you best. 

Gateways Support Services specialises in managing autism and ADHD with clients aged 2 to 92 and around 60 support workers to help them reach their goals. Staff work in either the organisation’s 22 accommodation settings, people’s homes, therapy sessions or accessing in the community, so a driver’s licence, first aid certificate and the ability to work independently are necessary. 

Bronwyn began in the industry as a classroom teacher interested in helping her special needs students before training adults with disabilities then into her current role as Individual Support and Recreation Manager at Gateways.  

Encompass caters to young adult school leavers and older participants who mostly attend day programs held from 9am to 3pm on weekdays. The Programs are based in Garden St, East Geelong to The Paddock, a 7-acre urban farm in Leopold, and social enterprises in Whittington such as Homestart Preloved Furniture and two opportunity shops. They also offer weekend respite, travel groups and several accommodation homes. 

Jacinta started at Encompass as a casual support worker in the day program before taking her full-time role, including welcoming and supervising placement students from many allied health courses. 

Jacinta said, “Support workers can use any personal skills and hobbies in sessions such as knitting and crafts, gardening, baking, farm work, ten pin bowling and other popular activities”. 

“This is not just a serious, caring industry. It is a lot of fun and not just one way,” said Bronwyn.  

Both organisations welcome volunteers, which can also become a pathway to work. For anyone inexperienced and lacking in confidence, this was the perfect way to gain insight into the role while accompanying paid staff to carry out their duties, Bronwen advised. 

Although entry-level support workers do not need a qualification, basic digital literacy skills and a drivers licence are essential for both organisations. Support is offered to work out how to use online timesheets, rosters and forms, accessed on an average smartphone or tablet. 

The minimum age for staff is 18 years old, and Bronwyn suggested that you will need to be available at least five hours per week for many employers, although this can be made up of shorter shifts. 

Both organisations offer recruits mentoring and encouragement to upskill to Certificate IV in Disability, provided locally at the Gordon TAFE and through other registered training organisations, including Encompass.  

What sort of person should apply for a position? 

Someone with a lot of patience, according to Jacinta, who said, “those who made the best support workers were people who were able to stand back and only step in once help was needed”. She explained the philosophy of Person Centered Active Support, which meant that a competent staff member would not take charge and chop an onion but rather talk someone through the process or provide hand over hand steadiness to allow them to chop it up themselves if that was needed.  

“They provide just enough assistance of the right kind to enable a person to succeed, in doing all or part of a task…You are supporting an individual to live their very best life,” she said. 

Jacinta recommended watching the late Stella Young’s Ted talk entitled ‘I am not your inspiration, thank you very much,’ for an insight into the social model of disability.  

“We want someone passionate, and we get a sense of that in your cover letter,” said Bronwyn, who interviews her potential staff. She added that active listening, good communication skills, flexibility and a “can-do” attitude are assets gained through previous roles in life, including parenting and studying or working in other industries. Transferrable skills like communication, risk management, customer service were essential to highlight in your application, plus any experience candidates had with friends or relatives living with a disability. 

Gateways have a strict process that allocated scores to cover letter, resume and key selection criteria documents. All must be written and checked before submission if you hope to be shortlisted and interviewed as a suitable candidate. 

“You will be nervous, but we understand and consider that. We are quite friendly, so try to let your personality out and get your passion across. We want your personality to shine,” said Bronwyn. 

Bronwyn’s tips for a great interview were: 

  • do your research into the organisation and its goals, the NDIA and the Disability Act, 
  • choose your referees well and advise them of the position you are applying for, 
  • be on time, 
  • look presentable, 
  • bring notes if needed. 

Host Lucinda Rodrigues, a careers practitioner, said that the Gordon Skills and Job Centre offered free: 

  • assistance and review of job applications, 
  • resume, key selection criteria, transferable skills and interview workshops, and 
  • private and confidential mock interviews. 

Fully qualified counsellors were available online and over the phone. 

So what are you waiting for? Get those applications in as soon as possible! 

Further references: 
Missed the session? Don’t worry, we recorded it! – Click Here
Gateways Support Services
Gateways Website – Here
Gateways Job Opportunities – Here

Encompass Community Services
Encompass Website – Here
Encompass Job Opportunities – Here

The Gordon- Skills and Jobs Centre
March Workshops: Coming soon. Keep an eye on our website here
Email: Skillscentre@gordontafe.edu.au
Phone: 5225 0700
Book Appointment

Stella Young’s Ted talkHere

The Gordon – Certificate IV in Disability Here

Turn down time into upskill time

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Are you feeling like you want to move forward with adapting to this rapidly changing job market but not sure how? It’s a good idea to set aside some time to upskill while you have some down time. Why not search for a free online course to keep up your motivation?

There are courses for just about anything out there! A quick google reveals communicating with animals telepathically (a perfect new low cost hobby), the ATO’s mundane but useful 30 second guide to doing your own online tax returns, instructions for building your own bomb shelter and anything else you have always wanted to know but never had the spare time to research.

Now is also a good time to add value to your resume by learning a new skill.

At The Gordon Skills and Job Centre Geelong many of our clients are doing a 28 day career challenge as a boot camp for job readiness. Check it out on Facebook to get some great tips and suggestions, especially if you feel you don’t know where to start to stay motivated.

You could try Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which are free online courses available for anyone to enrol. It is like a try before you buy introduction to university study, only without the accompanying qualification although this can often be obtained at a cost if you complete assessments. These courses are delivered on platforms such as Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn and come from respected global universities.

Like TAFE, other providers such as the Khan Academy and Alison.com have a more bite-sized approach where you could just learn something practical with certificates available for some free courses.

As we have all been dragged into cyberspace to communicate online, you might as well get to grips with user tutorials for programs like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other popular programs for webinar style learning which will be now be featured much more in gaining ongoing qualifications.

You could also sharpen your computer skills for the workforce. Many companies use Microsoft Office 365 as their PC software. You can find free tutorials in Excel spread sheets, MS Word and other office programs popular for administration tasks. Why not practice with a spreadsheet of what is in your pantry and set up an ongoing grocery shopping list to reorder toilet paper and those other luxuries in life?

No computer? No problem. If you have just a phone or tablet to access the internet then You Tube has a host of videos to prepare you for future employment. Look up “7 Body Language Tips to Impress at Your Next Job interview” or “30 Seconds to Impress”. Even some basic info clips for food handling and hand washing protocols provide practical upskilling.

If your devices data is down to almost nil, then don’t despair. Audio podcasts are a useful tool for hearing vital information on the go (or not). Check out Google Play or iPhone’s App Store for recommended free podcast apps to download then search for helpful audio clips.

Lastly, self-help e-books can be borrowed at no cost from your local library website then downloaded onto your tablet for a welcome distraction. Go to the website, use your membership card number and sign up for access through BorrowBox, Overdrive, Cloudlibrary or other apps. Phone to ask a librarian if you need help signing up. Don’t know which title to choose? You could always request the old classic The Power of Positive Thinking first written by Norman Vincent Peale in 1952.

Whatever you choose, now has never been a better time to slow down and focus on learning something new. Happy e-learning!

Copyright C.Caldwell, The Gordon Skills and Jobs Centre 1/4/20

 

Why I’m not about putting bums on seats!

I had an interesting visit from a very clever woman a couple of days ago.  We’ll call her Alison.

Her visit was because she mistook the Skills and Jobs Centre for Customer Service. “I’m here to enrol in a Cert 4 in Business Administration” she announced, as certain as anything that was the solution to her yet to be verbalised problem.

An easy enrolment right? Sure, we’ll take your money, more bums on seats, more job security for me! So as a Gordon staff member why didn’t I take the win?  Luckily that’s not what we do at The Gordon. An ethical education facility won’t take your money for the sake of it, they’ll dig a little deeper and make sure you are getting the right value and support.  At the Skills and Jobs Centre our goal is to help you manage your career sustainably.  That means helping you make the right career decisions for you rather than our bottom line.

After sitting and talking to Alison for a while I discovered that this already highly skilled and experienced  woman had worked for an excess of 10 years in admin. She clearly was great at what she did, having been given more and more responsibility over her career and still loved it!

She wasn’t, as it turned out, looking to make an extreme change or in actual fact looking to study. What she wanted was to leave her role in a small organisation, where she had developed as far as she could, and find an admin opportunity with a company where she could grow. Alison also wanted to be in a place where she felt like she was contributing in some way to the community. She believed when she walked in the door that her experience was of no value and that somehow a Cert 4 would provide her with more opportunities to do so. This particular qualification, in her case, provided skills which she had since surpassed during her already established career.

Initially for Alison the solution is not training (not yet anyway), but to:

  • Do some research and identify organisations that offer what she is looking for in a role
  • Determine a job seeking strategy
  • Realise and recognise all the beneficial experience and talent she already has to offer
  • Carefully target her applications, or prospective applications, by ensuring she is articulating her relevant skills in the best possible light

Don’t get me wrong, education & learning are vital and add a lot to professional development. Let’s face it, lifelong learning is the norm. It’s important to stay current and employable.  A Cert 4 is a great qualification for someone with a smaller amount of applied experience to use as a starter qualification or to up-skill.

It is always important to consider your motivation and the specific value a course will provide when looking to study.

Ask yourself:

  • What are my skill gaps?
  • Is the study I am considering at the right level?
  • Is it adding anything to my currency?
  • Will this study develop my skill base in the way I need it to?
  • Will it take me where you I want to go?
  • Or am I just qualification loading?

Education should be a value add to your life or career and an investment into your future. Make your time and money count.

Written by our valiant captain, Tanya. If you would like to discuss your training options, make an appointment with Tanya or any of our Skills and Jobs Centre advisors.