35 years in the making
The Becoming a Worker’s origins go back to 1986 when a group of Parents and Disability Advocates in Wollongong became concerned with the lack of employment options for young people with a disability. This led to the discovery of a unique program in Fremantle WA aimed at streaming young people with a disability straight from school into open employment.
A tentative launch into a few headwinds
The group formed Illawarra Vocational Services Inc. (IVS) and, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Government, brought this “open employment” program to the Australian east coast.
As with most social change initiatives, success wasn’t instant. This new service was forced to contend with resistance from the disability sector which, at the time was wedded to the “sheltered workshop” model. Also, many employers believed a person with a disability would not be productive and could be downright disruptive in their workforce. Added to this, the broader community was unfamiliar and, in cases hesitant, with mixing with people with people with a disability in everyday life.
Traction, name changes but a focused vision
Despite the resistance, IVS persevered and the concept of getting young people with a disability into “real jobs” gained traction. Other disability service Providers received funding to launch the program in their communities and IVS itself was invited to open new branches beyond Wollongong and eventually developed an office network on the NSW South Coast, Southern Highlands, and Southern Tablelands. Also, to reflect its greater geographical coverage IVS underwent a series of name changes to Essential Personnel Inc., Essential Employment & Training Ltd and more recently The Essential Foundation and was commonly referred to as Essential.
Very early on, the organisation realised that the main task was not finding jobs for people with a disability – many employers were willing to consider job candidates with a disability. The challenge was to assist these potential candidates to be fully work ready. A test we willingly accepted and excelled at and culminated in 1000’s of young people with a disability to finding and remaining in fulfilling paid employment. Essential gained 5-star Disability Employment Service (DES) Provider recognition and was granted Government Work Readiness contracts such as Transition to Work etc.
Dawn of the NDIS
With the introduction of the NDIS, it was a natural fit that Essential would focus on the School Leavers Employment Supports (SLES) Program.
In doing so, it was recognised that to ensure that all Participants benefited from the Program across all sites, it was necessary to provide Support Workers with a comprehensive training tool to assist young people wishing to enter the workforce with employability skills so that that they are truly work ready, empowered, and equipped to be employed in competitive employment environments.
Birth of Becoming a Worker
Combining Essential’s deep understanding of the Work Readiness space with an in-house RTO expertise, the Becoming a Worker program was developed in 2014.
In 2018 the Program gained recognition as Certificate II in Employability (Becoming a Worker) and became available for other RTO’s to place on their scope.
Going online, taking the Program nationwide
The Becoming a Worker Program gained high praise from Participants and other Providers alike. However, an obvious drawback was that it remained a “pencil & paper” program delivered in a classroom setting. With the onset of the pandemic this delivery mechanism proved to be a distinct disadvantage.
In response, The Essential Foundation decided to fund an online version of Becoming a Worker and make it relevant for not only SLES Participants but also Participants of Transition to Work and Parents Next programs and other initiatives aimed at assisting people to become work ready.
In taking this decision the Foundation is making this resource available to any Provider or Participant, no matter their location, who wishes to prepare themselves for sustainable employment.
“By slightly changing how we deliver on our mission we can now positively impact the lives of not hundreds but thousands of young Australians”
– Elide Rudzats, Chair, The Essential Foundation