Taking a chance pays off for Zen and his employer

25 February 2022

Taking a chance pays off for Zen and his employer

Zen left school early with no clear idea of what work he wanted to get into. He has a cognitive learning disability. He was referred to the Disability Employment Services program and registered with CoAct / Interact for support.

Zen was matched with an experienced employment consultant, Amy. She built trust, uncovered his ideal type of job, and supported him into a life-changing apprenticeship.

Zen’s been in his role for over three months now and is flourishing.

Building trust

After he left school, Zen started attending a Flexible Learning Organisation (FLO school). He had no future career goals.

Despite his cognitive learning disability, Zen and his parents never considered him to fall under the label of a ‘person with disability’. He had no physical limitations and his parents didn’t realise that a minor intellectual disability is still classed as a disability.

His FLO school referred him to CoAct / Interact for Disability Employment Services (DES), where Zen and his mum were introduced to employment consultant Amy. She worked closely them to help them understand the benefits of the program. She also helped them become more about Zen’s disability and understand that it wasn’t something to hide or be ashamed of.

Zen registered as a DES jobseeker and began working with Amy to create a job plan.

Amy’s background in education, and her own personal experiences, helped her relate to Zen. She was able to understand exactly what he needed. Being open with Zen helped them build a trusting, open relationship.

I spent a lot of time getting to know Zen and helping him think about his future. I could see he needed support to secure his first ever job.

More than ‘just a job’

Amy and her team figured out Zen was a hands-on learner and didn’t want to be stuck behind a computer. He wanted to build, get busy with his hands and learn on the job. He knew he was good at working outdoors, having done some landscaping work experience with his Dad.

Zen told Amy he ‘just wanted a job’. Amy explained that approach wasn’t going to make him happy or be long-term. They explored the benefits of a future that was more than just a job. She talked to him about doing something that fitted with his skills and interests – a job that would provide long-term benefit.

Amy organised an appointment with Mas National, one of CoAct / Interact’s community partners. Their career consultant, Ruth, also agreed that Zen would be great in a hands-on role and that an apprenticeship would be a great option.

I told him that my job as an employment consultant is to find sustainable, fulfilling employment, not just a job. And he understood that.

Not letting setbacks get in the way

It wasn’t long until Zen had his first job trial, which bought some challenges for his mental health and disability. It didn’t work out and set his confidence back. Amy spent some time working on building back his mental strength and energy. Zen was worried he’d let her down, but she reassured him that she was there to support him.

I got him back into the office for a pep talk and to help him see what jobs were around and apply online.”

“We found a job ad on Gumtree for a local business, Made to Fit Gates. The business owner Luke was looking for someone to take on a sheet metal apprenticeship. It sounded like a great fit so we messaged Luke asking if there was a good time to drop his resume off. He called straight back asking Zen to come in the next morning.”

“We acted fast. I picked him up took him to meet Luke, he had an interview on the spot and got the job there and then!

Zen did a job trial for a few weeks. While he was doing this, Amy and Ruth organised the apprenticeship. Amy helped Zen access funding to buy clothing, personal protective equipment, work boots and tools. She also helped Luke access wage subsidies.

Taking a chance

Amy says, “Zen connected with Luke from the start. Luke saw a bit of himself in Zen, and an opportunity, which is part of why it’s worked so well for them both.”

When Luke interviewed Zen, he told him, “If someone didn’t give me a chance, I wouldn’t be where I am today”.

Ongoing support for Zen and his employer

Amy continues to support Zen. Since starting his apprenticeship she’s helped guide him on how to be the best version of himself he can be. They talk often about how to navigate the working world as a young adult with a disability, and how to manage employer expectations.

They’re also working together to build his stamina, motivation and a regular routine.

If you’d like one of our team to give you a call to talk through whether the Disability Employment Services (DES) program is right for you, register here.

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