Ausnew Home Care | 'Thought it would be too hard': Students with a disability ready for hospitality workforce with official certification

'Thought it would be too hard': Students with a disability ready for hospitality workforce with official certification

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When Tara Gill graduated alongside her six classmates on Friday at a ceremony in the New South Wales suburb of Jerrabomberra, the tears were flowing, 

That's because higher education had long seemed out of reach for Ms Gill, who lives with an intellectual disability and suffers anxiety. 

"Honestly, I thought I wasn't gonna get any training, because, like, it is so hard," she explained.

"I was worried going into a workplace because … you know … I'm just going to take a little bit extra [time] than others."

But those fears were lifted when she learned about a course and a Queanbeyan-based disability service which would enable her to obtain a Certificate 3 in hospitality.

Tara Gill
Tara Gill never thought she'd be able to complete vocational education but she now holds a Certificate 3 in hospitality. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Ms Gill said she was supported throughout the course, which was adjusted to allow students to travel at their own pace and focused on practical learning, rather than written work. 

She is now working at the Jerrabomberra High School canteen where the majority of employees have disabilities and are supported on-site during work hours by a manager. 

She described it as a supportive, empowering environment.

"I can be myself, I don't have to like, you know, 'fake it to make it'," she said.

Jack and Bryce Lloyd make rocky road
Brothers Jack and Bryce Lloyd graduated this week with a Certificate 3 in hospitality. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Paid work opening doors to bigger futures

Brothers Jack and Bryce Lloyd, who both live with disability, also graduated alongside Ms Gill recently.

Bryce Lloyd said the experience of completing his training had opened his eyes to the things he might be able to do in the future.

"I'd like to go travel around the world, try working in different places … and try and make some different foods and all that and see how they're made in different countries," he said.

Meanwhile, his brother Jack described serving the customers — the school's students — who treated him "normally" as a highlight for him.

"Sometimes I feel like I've been [given] special treatment and I feel like … I want to be treated as normal, like other people and not have any special treatment," he said.

An inclusive school environment not without teething problems

Modelling an inclusive environment to the school students was what motivated principal Scott O'Hara to bring in Embrace Disability Group to operate the school canteen in the first place.

Mr O'Hara said his students had overall been very welcoming, and that even an occasion where two students had been making fun of the canteen workers had been able to be used as a positive learning experience.

"What we were able to do … was have a real conversation with them, and put them face to face with the young men in the canteen and explain to them why what they were saying was inappropriate," he said.

"So for the two young blokes in the canteen with a disability, they learned that they don't have to accept it.

"They've been laughed at, ridiculed and criticised all their life … and they don't have to accept that anymore."

Matt Morrissey with graduates Jack Lloyd, Tara Gill and Bryce Ll
Embrace Disability hospitality and catering manager Matt Morrissey is hopeful the unique set up at Jerrabomberra High School can be replicated elswhere. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Vocational education in its 'purest form'

Embrace Disability's hospitality and catering manager Matt Morrissey said the educational program had been very hands on and had canvassed sixteen units including preparing food, workplace health and safety requirements, cleaning and sanitising.

"This course is vocational education in its purest form," he said.

"It's taking people, showing them a job, showing them what they need to do and how they need to do it, and then just allowing them to go through it."

In some cases, this meant written elements of the course could be replaced with video footage or photographic evidence of the participants completing the task.

Mr Morrissey hoped the model at the Jerrabomberra High School could be replicated elsewhere with other businesses, particularly given ongoing staff shortages in the hospitality industry. 

But he acknowledged it was important to get the setting right.

"It has been overwhelming to watch [the participants] not only thrive within the hospitality industry, but to watch them grow more broadly as contributing members of society," he said.

"Being able to treat people as people, regardless of their abilities, is what we're all about here."


Source: ABC

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