Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Young people with disability become job ready with TAFE NSW and Woolworths

Young people with disability are taking the next step towards employment thanks to a new TAFE NSW initiative offering retail students with disability work placement at Woolworths.

Eleven students have built their confidence in providing retail services and prepared for work placement by completing simulated tasks in the Mini Woolies training facility at TAFE NSW Loftus, which opened in March this year.

The innovative program aims to address the alarming fact that despite a national skills shortage, only 48% of working-age people with disability are employed, compared to 80% of those without disability[1].

Among the first students to complete work placement was 20-year-old Emma Harris, who says working at Woolworths Kirrawee gave her a new level of confidence.

“I was serving customers at the point-of-sale by scanning items and packing their bags. At first it was daunting, but I became more confident each day, and by Friday afternoon, I didn’t want to leave,” she said.

“Working at Woolworths and wearing my uniform made me feel powerful, and I’ve never felt like that before. It gave me purpose in life. I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, and now I feel like I can conquer other jobs, too.”

Leo Howard-Willis, 18, worked in the fruit and vegetable section and said he had the confidence to stock shelves in the store because of his practice at the Mini Woolies facility.

“My disability sometimes makes it hard to have a good grip, which is important when you’re stocking fruit and vegetables, but I proved to myself that I could do it. I’ve gone from thinking that I could probably work in retail, to knowing I can definitely do it. It’s a life changing thing,” he said.

TAFE NSW Retail Teacher Catherine Zammut says the students’ growth this year has been remarkable.

“For many of these students, the idea of working in a shop can be overwhelming because their communication skills and physical ability can be challenging. The practice they’ve had in the Mini Woolies training store meant they didn’t let their disabilities hold them back,” she said.

“To see them go from shy to confident within hours on their first day is so gratifying to me as their teacher. Their entire view of themselves has shifted, which is a testament to the value of the Mini Woolies facility and to the support of the staff at Woolworths Kirrawee.”

All eleven Certificate II in Retail Services students will complete three days of work placement in a role that interests them at Woolworths Kirrawee throughout June.

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022.

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