The Observatory

Building Stronger Futures Program

Belinda Wilson

As one of the leading provider of services to people who are blind or have low vision, employment services are a big part of who we are and what we do. We offer a number of services to help people who are blind or have low vision be job ready.
 
Across Australia, we know youth unemployment is high, and this is reflected in the blindness and low vision community as well. 
 
A big part of learning about work and developing a career path, is to have that first job, whether it is part time, on the weekends or a full time job after completing a degree or certification. We know that with the financial and physical independence from work leads to better career outcomes and more inclusion in society as a whole.
 
As an added way to help young people with blindness or low vision to be job ready, we commenced a new pre-employment program in 2017 for people aged 15-24.
 
The Building Stronger Futures Program was developed in collaboration with the Empowering Youth Initiative (EYI) with the aim of equipping young people with the skills to support them in finding employment. 
 
It’s a really exciting program that’s quite innovative and we think it’s going to be something that has a significant benefit for young people who are blind or have low vision. 
 
Each round of the program will run for a little over six months – starting with a three-week period of face-to-face skills development, followed by a job placement assistance. 
 
In the three week face-to-face component, participants focus on developing skills such as:
 
  • Advice on career pathways and job seeking techniques
  • Cover letter and resume writing advice
  • Addressing employment issues specific to vision impairment
  • Interview skills development and coaching
  • Networking and matching your skills to an employer’s needs. 
 
Following that there is job placement assistance for six months, where we work with the participants to develop and implement the strategies to overcome challenges they might face in the workplace.
 
Last year we had two cohorts complete the first part of the program including Lachlan Martin (24) who has Retinitis Pigmentosa.
 
Lachlan is a massive fan of American style low and slow BBQ and has grand ambition to be Australia’s first blind Pitmaster and to compete in BBQ competitions!
 
After working with Vision Australia as his Disability Employment Services provider to help him advance computer knowledge and customer service skills, Lachlan decided to undertake the Building Stronger Futures Program.
 
Lachlan said, “Approaching potential employers as a vision impaired worker is a big obstacle, and when the opportunity of learning how to tackle that came up, I decided I'd give it a shot, and see if I could use what I learned to find more work.”
 
Already employed by a small catering company specialising in American BBQ, Lachlan has secured further work at a BBQ café by the beach, running the kitchen and making meals to order.
 
“I think the biggest thing I learned was the importance of networking in your field of work. 
 
“Forming contacts with people in the industry, especially those who are popular among the right people, is a great way to find work. I found my new job thanks to a restaurant owner in Melbourne who knew I was looking for work down my way, and he had a friend who was advertising. It's all about who you know.”
 
Some of the other things Lachlan took away from the program included talking to a small panel of people who are blind and have successful careers.
 
“It was such a valuable opportunity to question them about what they did, how they were able to do it and how they overcame the obvious barriers of vision impairment.
 
“We also engaged in practice interviews, which were a great chance to build on interpersonal skills, research skills and learn how to handle myself in an interview appropriately. 
 
“We then watched over it afterwards in a group which allowed me to take on valuable feedback.”
 
If you’d like more information on the program please feel free to contact me on 03 8378 1223 or Belinda.wilson@visionaustralia.org.
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Belinda Wilson

Belinda is the Vision Australia Building Stronger Futures Program Lead Read more by this author →

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