Pathway programme provides equal opportunities for employment

Issue: Volume 97, Number 12

Posted: 11 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9ja_

Workbridge and Z Energy are collaborating with Christchurch schools to pilot a programme that helps disabled young people prepare for employment.

An internship programme run by a specialist employment service, a major fuel retailer and local schools in Christchurch is helping young people to find their post-school pathway.

Daniel Curtis loves working as a forecourt concierge at a Z petrol station in Christchurch, a job he started straight out of high school.

He was one of four students to take part in last year’s pilot between Workbridge, Z Energy and local schools which aimed to help disabled, young people prepare for employment.

It has been a great success for Daniel, who says the programme gave him more confidence in himself and with other people.

“At first I was nervous, but as soon as I got into it after the first couple of weeks I was like ‘yup, this is definitely for me, I want to do this’. I can see myself in five, 10, 20, 30 years from now doing this.”

The programme consists of hands-on experience at a workplace alongside e-learning modules, which were designed by Z Energy and reinforced by the school. The completed modules can also be used towards a New Zealand Certificate in Retail or towards NCEA Level 2.

As a school leaver, Daniel has visited his old school to speak at assemblies and explain his career pathway.

“I’ve got a full-time job straight out of internship and people are amazed. They just want to be like me, pretty much going straight from school to work.”

What is Workbridge?

Each year Workbridge facilitates employment for 3,000 to 4,000 people who have an injury, disability or illness lasting over six months.

Workbridge CEO Grant Cleland says the standard ‘Z in Schools’ work transition programme was modified to accommodate the needs of disabled students.

“Fundamentally, the aim is to get people into jobs, but the other aim along the way is that they learn work-based skills and that they get qualifications as well,” Grant says.

Using its pre-existing relationship with employers, Workbridge aims to build connections between schools and employers through the new internship programme.

Schools and families were involved to help identify each student’s skills and learning supports. Students were interviewed prior to their placement and schools were engaged to ensure the e-learning modules were accessible for their students.

“The actual modules were much more accessible for the disabled students than we probably realised, but that is not surprising given that Z works with other staff who have different learning needs,” Grant says.

School staff also visited the worksite to support the student for the first few weeks of their placement.

“Then they stepped back so that the workplace took over in providing that support, but in that period of time this helped to identify the support that someone needed,” Grant says.

He believes the programme’s success is because it creates a two-way street where an employer can access potential employees, and vice versa.

“I think we’ve cracked something that everyone's been trying to figure out. There are always going to be a group of young disabled people in schools who are going to go off to university or polytech, but there's a group who everyone's kind of gone, ‘where do they go?’. I think the young people very clearly saw that there is now a potential pathway to employment for these students using work-based training.”

Grant also believes the programme helps to break down barriers and raise expectations.

“The young people really stepped up and teachers, families, and even principals, went ‘wow, aren’t they doing incredibly well’. I think we saw changes in attitude towards the young people. The programme allowed them to demonstrate what they are capable of and what to expect from these young people,” he says.

“The young people don’t always have NCEA but this programme creates another pathway for them to get workplace qualifications.”

Ministry of Education Employer Liaison Manager Patrick McKibbin says this initiative is a great example of organisations working together to help young people connect to the world of work in different ways.

“To find out what helps most, I spend time connecting to organisations to understand how they help young people be successful.”

Building relationships

Z retailer Anton Hutton says working with schools and developing a student’s skills earlier is beneficial for both future jobseekers and for employers.

“Coming in and going ‘this is what I’m after’. If it’s the path you’re looking to go down at the end of your study these are the areas you really want to focus on to get yourself work ready.”

He believes the key to a successful outcome is building partnerships between the right people to help facilitate the programme.

“The right relationships built between all parties, families, students and the school, which I think was absolutely key because this wasn’t a project of us, it was very inclusive which I think is a major factor,” Anton says.

“Even through when the teacher aides came onto the worksite, the relationship with them and our staff, helping our staff improve the way they were explaining and teaching and training and including was really cool.”

This year the programme will extend to schools and Z retailers in Christchurch, Auckland and Dunedin. Workbridge is also looking to extend the programme to other employers they already work with.

For Anton, the programme confirmed his belief that having access to work is an important component to a complete life.

“It showed very much for me that work skills have a place in the classroom and that employers can engage really powerfully to add value in that space to people's journeys,” he says.

“I would love to see the time when everyone has the expectation of a job.

“I think for most people, to not have that or have easy access to that is a loss and it makes it hard. When you come out of school and you’re connected with a pathway and have a lot of the skills to move down that pathway could be a fundamental game changer from where we are today.”


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:32 pm, 11 July 2018

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