TAFE NSW is delivering a pipeline of skilled disability workers to the sector the National Skills Commission has forecast to grow by 11% over the next three years.
As the NSW Government continues its focus through its 2022-2024 Living Well Strategic Plan on improving access to more community-based services and support and embedding lived experience, TAFE NSW is responding with training that equips students with the skills in these areas and is encouraging learners to incorporate lived experience into their approach to case management.
TAFE NSW Maitland student, Paul Johns, who has been blind since birth, had been involved in the community services industry, but says he wanted to learn more.
“I’ve always been involved in community services. I spend a lot of time volunteering for my local council through their disability action and inclusion group, and I’m involved with local projects supporting accessibility within the community. I have also volunteered for Guide Dogs Australia, which is a cause close to me as a guide dog user.
“I enrolled in a Certificate III and followed this with a Certificate IV in Community Services at TAFE NSW so I could gain the skills and formal qualifications that would allow me to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others,” Paul said.
Access to meaningful employment for people with disability, including people who are blind or who have low vision, is a significant boost for Australia’s economy. It is estimated that if an additional 100,000 people with disability were employed by 2050, it would add one per cent to Australia’s gross domestic product.
Paul, 55, now works as a Disability Support Worker at Delano Corporation and is enrolled in the Certificate IV in Community Services. The 2023 TAFE NSW Excellence Student of the Year said TAFE NSW restored his faith in education.
“School was a terrible time for me – without vision support technology everything was so hard, and I thought I was no good at learning. I left school and worked in manual labour roles that didn’t require eyesight. But I always knew I wanted to make more of a difference and TAFE NSW has shown me that I’m actually really good at learning.
“Living with disability comes with significant challenges, but TAFE NSW has been incredibly supportive of me during my studies. Susie Jeremy is my Vision Support Teacher, who’s been with me since my second day at TAFE NSW, and all my teachers have supported me every step of the way. The TAFE NSW librarians are amazing at helping all the students,” Paul said.
TAFE NSW Manager for Disability and Access Services, Jodie Hoger, is also blind and was instrumental in developing TAFE NSW' first Disability Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP). Ms Hoger said TAFE NSW strives for a more inclusive workplace where employees and learners can live their disability identity authentically.
“Through our DIAP, TAFE NSW is committed to supporting and pursuing career pathways for people with disability. We’re constantly striving towards being a more inclusive organisation, a place where employees and learners are free to demonstrate their disability identity. This visibility demonstrates to people that, through TAFE NSW, they can gain the skills they need to be whatever they want to be,” Ms Hoger said.
Paul is continuing his studies with TAFE NSW with a Certificate IV in Leisure and Health and plans to undertake a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment with the goal of becoming a teacher.
“As someone living with disability, I stand as proof that studying is not out of reach of people with disability. Good services and assistance aren’t found everywhere, but the support I received at TAFE NSW has made my new career path possible,” Paul said.
Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 02 7921 3756.