For many people with an intellectual disability, work and study prospects can be few and far between. But for the Toowoomba community, there’s a vibrant hub of opportunity just around the corner in Ramsay Street.
“For people with a disability you’re typically looking at around 53 per cent in the labour market – that is in, or actively looking for, work – compared with 83 per cent for people without disabilities[i]”, said Michelle Howells, Manager of Employment Outcomes at Endeavour Foundation’s local site.
It’s an unimpressive statistic. But, for the 142 people at Endeavour Foundation Toowoomba, employment doesn’t just mean a job – it means friendship, self-worth and the opportunity to gain a vocational education that complements their practical experience, exploring differing abilities and personal ambitions.
Over the last year 34 Certificate II courses in Food Processing, Warehousing and Transport, and Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways were undertaken by supported employees at the local Endeavour Foundation site, enhancing skills across areas such as quality assurance and work flow management.
Since Emma McIntosh, 28, completed Cert II warehousing and Transport and Cert 1 Vocational pathways, Michelle said that she has ‘blossomed’.
“Emma has worked with us for five years but, since completing her certificates, she’s really come into her own. She’s more confident, more social and more inclined to participate with her peers. There’s also been a definite impact in terms of Emma’s ability to process and implement instructions and take a lead within the team. She tells me she’s surprised at how much she’s learned and the impact it’s had in work and in her personal life.”
Emphasising the need to explore individual potential, Michelle said that the team “sees every day how much people with a disability have to offer in the workplace and the wider community”.
“That’s why we’re committed to equipping people with a disability with the tools to get the most out of employment – supported or otherwise – and to, hopefully, set them on a path to a job that really fits with their abilities and interests,” she said.
“The students have worked very hard throughout the program and their certificates are testimony to that. The certificate means that they have the industry skills to respond to the demands of the workplace. That might be in open employment, or it might mean new opportunities within a supported environment – either way it’s a success in our book.
“The team here is highly motivated and eager to learn, doing real jobs in a real working environment. Of course different people require different levels of support, but ultimately the ability to simply have a job can give a sense of purpose, an opportunity to contribute and gain skills, and improve confidence and self-esteem.
“We focus on what people can do – their strengths and capabilities – because we believe that it’s a critical part of an inclusive, empowering community.”
[i] ABS, 4433.0.55.006 - Disability and Labour Force Participation, 2012