Stories - October 27, 2023
Aaron thriving in open employment
All Aaron wanted since leaving school was to secure a “normal job”.
Thanks to National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Partner in the Community Intereach and Echuca Mazda, his dream has become a reality and the 29-year-old is on his way to achieving another goal – living independently.
The Kyabram local was diagnosed with hearing loss and an intellectual disability after he was born 16 weeks premature and spent the first 14 months of his life in hospital.
His hearing loss affected his speech which, in turn, made communication challenging at times. However, since becoming an NDIS participant in 2017 when the scheme rolled out in the Loddon area, he has been able to access various supports, including speech and occupational therapy.
He has also been accessing supports through the Hearing Service Program for his hearing aids and other hearing supports since his diagnosis.
When Aaron became involved with Intereach, he had had a few part-time supported employment positions over the years, but wanted mainstream employment.
“It’s really good. I enjoy making the customers feel happy when they pick up their car. I really like helping people out and making them feel welcome and happy,” he said.
Having more responsibility has given Aaron the chance to push himself and improve his social and communication skills.
Thanks to his Local Area Coordinator (LAC) through Intereach, a person-centred approach was implemented and through Intereach’s local networking connections, Aaron secured a full-time position as a service vehicle cleaner at Echuca Mazda this year.
“I clean the cars with the pressure washer and vacuum the inside,” Aaron said.
This job is more challenging than any other jobs I’ve had. I was nervous at first, but I have gradually built up my confidence and skillset and I now feel capable to do it.
Aaron lives with his parents in Kyabram but being employed fulltime has enabled him to be financially independent and plan for his future.
“I want to save up for my own unit so I can be independent. That’s my biggest goal,” he said.
Mum Christine is extremely proud of Aaron and has already noticed significant changes in her son.
“Aaron has just gone ahead in leaps and bounds since getting this job and has the confidence to front things head on and make decisions,” she said.
“We’re all so grateful for this opportunity and the fact that despite his disability he has been able to get his driver’s licence,” Christine said.
To help Aaron succeed in his role, Echuca Mazda Dealer Principal Garet has provided on-the-job training and guidance.
“We have also partnered Aaron with one of our part-time employees who mentors and supports him,” Garet said.
“He makes sure Aaron is tracking okay and if Aaron has any questions, he feels he can reach out to him first and foremost.”
In the short time Aaron has been there, his presence had already had a positive effect on the work environment.
“You can see the pride he has in his work and his general positivity is infectious,” Garet said.
“He engages with his workmates, he has a happy demeanour and the fact that he performs to a high standard really filters through to everyone else.
“Everyone has his back and the conversations around making sure Aaron is okay and knows what to do have really made the workplace more tight knit.”
Garet encouraged other organisations to employ people with disability with Echuca Mazda keen to highlight the impact Aaron has made on the workplace.
He said Echuca Mazda had worked with Aaron to understand his needs and support, set expectations that could be achieved and exceeded and gained a fantastic employee.
Intereach supports Echuca Mazda with information about hearing loss and workplace communication, with the aim of Aaron maintaining his employment.
LAC Program Manager Simone said this opportunity allowed Aaron to make social connections, increase his independence and improve his communication and confidence, resulting in a greater sense of purpose and belonging.
“We are so excited for Aaron as this is a really big step in his life to build his capacity,” Simone said.
“He’s now talking about living independently and making some really great steps in his life to build that independence, but also be supported by his LAC, as well as the local community, his family and his employer.”
Employers interested in supporting people with disabilities can contact Intereach on 1300 488 226.