International Day of People with Disability: Teenagers get a kickstart to careers

Learning skills and making friends: Greenacres' unique program called Kickstart for Life gives training and work experience to students with disability.

Learning skills and making friends: Greenacres' unique program called Kickstart for Life gives training and work experience to students with disability.

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You never forget your first part-time job. The pride you felt when you mastered a new skill, the comradery you developed with your co-workers and the thrill of holding your first ever pay packet.

For most people, a job in high school is a rite of passage but for those students who need extra support because of a disability, it is usually an unachievable dream.

This is why Greenacres has designed a unique program called Kickstart for Life which gives training, work experience and, in some cases, paid employment, to high school students aged 15 to 18 during after school hours.

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After six weeks of work-based training, the teenagers graduate with greater confidence, improved communication skills, a certificate for their resume and strong friendships.

Kickstart for Life trainer, Lee Smith, said being part of a small group meant it didn’t take long for the participants to come out of their shells and embrace the team spirit.

“Both the participants and their parents tell us the biggest benefits of the program are improved social skills, teamwork and communication,” Lee said.

“Because they have been at school all day, we try to make the learning fun and interactive by using visual tools and games and get them to learn in a hands-on way.”

Before starting the program, each teen has a one-on-one meeting where they complete a work profile as well as a skills assessment checklist, which outlines the skills they have and those they want to learn.

Cristina Ranzi, mother of 15-year-old Liam, said she couldn’t believe how well the group worked together and how quickly they picked up new skills.

“I was so happy to find the Kickstart for Life program because I had been looking for work for Liam and wanted him to learn new skills while he is young,” Cristina said.

“It is a great program and it has been really good for Liam. I hope that it will lead to him getting a casual job.”

For more information on the Kickstart for Life Program, visit www.kickstartforlife.com.au or phone Greenacres on 4229 2666.

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