For many school leavers with special needs the pathway into the world of work can seem difficult and challenging at times, for both the student and their family. Now thanks to Centacare’s School Leavers Program (SLES) young people with a disability can get all the support they need, through a personal approach that builds on their strengths.
Centacare in Belmore offers a fresh start for many school leavers with special needs and an exciting pathway to becoming job ready. The Centacare School Leavers Program (SLES) is run from Centacare’s purpose-built facility, offering work and life experience.
The energy at Centacare is contagious and students like Tom, who has autism, are there every day growing and developing their skills and confidence. Centacare’s Executive Manager, Brad Burridge, says for parents and students thinking about the future, the choice is often a difficult one.
“The job market today is very different to what it was in the past, and SLES ensures that we continue to be innovative.“ Brad says.
SLES training manager, Sandra Younes, says the program focuses on what the student is most passionate about. Work experience at Centacare is a key part of the program. To keep the SLES students work skills up to date, there’s a new training department, as well as life skills training, teaching in domestic, budgeting and financial skills, travel training, numeracy and literacy. TAFE certificates in retail are also part of the program.
“The students that come to SLES are at the centre of everything we do,” says Sandra.
“It’s about them reaching their potential and tapping into things that they didn’t maybe know about themselves, or things that they weren’t really sure that they could do, like going to the gym.
“Many are really hesitant just to go to the gym, because they’re not sure how to use the equipment, or what people will say if they see them on a treadmill, for example. So we brought the gym here. What we’re trying to do is to create a one-stop shop for them, like a home away from home.”
According to one father and son, Tom and Paul, SLES has offered a fresh start and a pathway towards a brighter future for Tom.
Tom, who has autism, has spent the past couple of years at Centacare’s SLES program. After previously being unsure of his future work options, now thanks to SLES he has found his feet. He also enjoys his passion for dancing inside Centacare’s purpose-built dance studio and wants to work in retail.
“We became involved with SLES and had Tom involved through his school, Trinity Catholic College in an aspect class with the Autism Spectrum Association,” Paul said.
“When Tom was in an aspect class, they did work experience here at Centacare and he loved it,” Paul said. “He loved the fact that he was able to do something that was meaningful, that he was able to do tasks and get a result out of it.
“We are really trying to shape different experiences for them, but to also tick those job-ready goals so we can get them ready for the professional world,” says Sandra.
“I love my job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had to be honest. I really enjoy just seeing how they’re a different person when you first meet them and then after spending a couple of months here, they transform into the best version of themselves.“