A new education-to-employment program is providing pathways into the workforce for regional Victorians living with down syndrome and intellectual disabilities.
- The Impact21 program helps people living with a disability to find part-time work
- The program is coming to regional Victoria, after success in Melbourne
- Graduates and their families say it is life-changing
Ashleigh Modra is one of the program's recent success stories.
Ms Modra has worked with employment agency CVGT Employment since graduating from an Impact21 employment program in Melbourne earlier this year.
The course included a classroom component, workplace activities, and at the end of the program an internship.
During the classroom component, participants learnt business skills such as administration, invoicing and customer service skills.
"They teach us a lot of amazing skills. [It] makes me feel proud," Ms Modra said.
The 25-year-old had 'job tasters' with several employers before getting matched with and hired by CVGT Employment.
"I loved it. I learnt how to take phone calls," she said.
Ms Modra has worked part time at CVGT Employment since June in administration. Her main duties involve photocopying, serving customers, and helping other people with disabilities find employment.
"I love working really hard," Ashleigh said.
"They [my co-workers] keep telling me we are family because we are family. I really love working with them."
Applications for trial still open
Donna Petrusma, Impact 21's lead regional coordinator, said the training course was designed to give participants the tools needed to pursue their chosen careers.
"That includes a program of short courses and learning programs, so students are prepared for the workplace and whatever career path they choose," she said.
Ms Petrusma said the program would make its regional Victorian debut this month, with an 18-month pilot program to begin in Bendigo on August 29.
She said a group of Central Victorian employers were set to participate, and that the program was still accepting applications for its 10 trainee positions.
The first trimester would teach participants crucial job-ready skills in the classroom.
"Participants get to learn about teamwork, communication, problem solving and what it's like to be a professional in the workforce," Ms Petrusma said.
In the second trimester, participants hone in on understanding specific workplaces such as administration, customer service and hospitality.
"[Then] they can get an overview of the types of workplaces they could choose from," Ms Petrusma said.
In the third part of the course, students learn onsite at a workplace to get to know and understand the environment before doing an internship 'job taster'.
Ms Petrusma said, "That's that idea of social responsibility and how to be a good work colleague and what it means to be in a workplace and socialising in a workplace".
Ms Modra could not recommend the course highly enough for others living with disabilities who wanted to learn new skills and find employment.
"Give this course a try. This course is going to be amazing for you to find a job and believe in who you are," she said.