An Australian-first program at The Wesley Hospital is empowering young adults with a disability to gain experience in jobs in the community. It is coming to Ipswich in 2020.
An Australian-first program at The Wesley Hospital is empowering young adults with a disability to gain experience in jobs in the community. It is coming to Ipswich in 2020.

How program helps build skills for people with disability

AN Australian-first program, which is equipping young people with a disability with the skills to secure a job, is coming to Ipswich in the new year.

Project SEARCH, introduced to the country by UnitingCare, was hailed as a success in its pilot year at the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane.

Five interns graduated from the first ten-month program.

Designed for young with developmental disabilities, the program is aimed at giving them the skills and confidence to secure employment.

UnitingCare disability employment services manager Corinne McPhee said Project SEARCH was founded in the Cincinnati Children's Hospital in 1996.

"I think there's over 620 programs now worldwide across 12 countries," she said.

"This year the Wesley Hospital launched the first in Australia.

"The interns have learnt a broad range of transferable skills through activities such as clinical sterilisation, rolling cutlery in the kitchen, transporting patients, delivering mail and performing administration work.

"At the star of the year when the interns started with us, a lot of them had no confidence at all. They really couldn't maintain eye contact and couldn't have a conversation.

"They've developed the confidence to talk to people; to step out of their shell and develop a sense of worth that what they doing every day is meaningful work. We've just seen them flourish."

UnitingCare is partnering with Blue Care to deliver the program in Ipswich at its community centre in Eastern Heights, starting in late February.

"We're taking applicants aged 17-28," Ms McPhee said.

"They're offering their workplace to do the same program as what we've done in the Welsey. They have a kitchen, a laundry and a whole fleet of vehicles. There's a whole range of different jobs we can teach."

Project SEARCH job coach Paul Davis was one of a team of three involved in delivering employability and life skills training in the classroom.

"The interns work from Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 3pm," he said.

"The first hour is in the classroom where we go through lessons for the day, from financial planning to learning about nutrition and ways to treat your body well.

"The interns then go to work in the hospital sites where they learn the skills required for their role. In the afternoon we go through what happened that day. The good things and things they might have needed a bit of help with."

Project SEARCH liaison and Wesley Hospital administration manager Jessica Strong said the program had "enriched the culture" of the hospital.

"Any initial 'fears of the unknown' were quickly replaced with acceptance and compassion," she said.

"Just because someone is a little bit different or socially different doesn't mean they can't do a job. But beyond that, its not just finding a job the interns can do … the interns are actually bringing more to our teams."

For more information visit: http://bit.ly/TWHProjectSearch.



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