Young Victorians are getting help to reach their career goals.


January 5, 2024

Ask any school leaver today how they feel about finishing school and taking the next big step into the world, and many will say ‘excited’, ‘nervous’, or ‘uncertain’. Leaving school and thinking about university or work can be daunting.

Now imagine how a school leaver living with a disability might feel.

According to a 2019 study1, 64% of young people with a disability felt they faced barriers to finding work – compared with 48% of young people without a disability.

Without targeted support, many of these young people disengage with school, further study, or work experience and eventually lose the confidence to participate in the activities they once enjoyed.

For people like Zoe, having the support of Uniting Vic.Tas Pathways 2 Employment means she can feel positive about the future, and sees some of those barriers fall away.

“I’m happy that I have the opportunity to do work experience at a café doing customer service. I love learning new skills,” she says.
Her friend and Pathways 2 Employment participant Wolfie feels the same.

He works at a local op shop, and at a café. He juggles his responsibilities and enjoys staying active.

“I’ve learned a lot about work safety and my rights in the workplace.

I’ve really enjoyed Pathways 2 Employment.

Uniting’s program – also known as School Leaver Employment Supports or SLES – helps young people build skills, confidence, and discover their strengths and aspirations in a supportive group environment.

According to Uniting Employment Coach Jessica Clenci, the participants love the activities, industry visits, and taking part in community events such as hosting a Bunning’s barbeque.

“Going out and practicing skills they’ve learned in the training room, going out and meeting people in the community – they love that experience,” she says.

Jessica loves watching the participants planning and taking part in social days that the group decides on together as a team.

“They’re the ones organising and planning it – they call up the businesses, they make the bookings, they make the decisions, it’s really important team-building for them.”

 The skills the Pathways 2 Employment participants learn help them feel empowered.

Not only do they learn about money, taxes, communicating in the workplace, how to use public transport and learners permit theory, but they grow together and make decisions about their own lives based on their own aspirations.

Janet Curtain, an Employment Coach working with Pathways 2 Employment participants loves watching the young people grow and develop independence.

“They come in all nervous into the start of the program, thinking it’s all scary…to being so social, and coming out of their shell. It’s amazing to see them develop belief in themselves,” Janet says.

Janet knows she’s done her job when the participants can confidently fill out their own forms, do life admin, choose an interview outfit, make a barista-grade coffee or a sandwich and sell it to a member of the public – and she loves seeing them eventually settle into a job.

Janet keeps in touch with the participants and their parents, and loves hearing about how they’re progressing after graduation.

Archer is another Pathways 2 Employment participant, a friend of Zoe and Wolfie, and is in his second year of the program.

“I like working on my goals, and working in a team. I like learning about money and pay”, he says.

Archer has enjoyed planning and recording a radio show, and visiting Bunnings to take part in team-building projects.

These invaluable experiences are increasing Archer’s confidence and providing a range of skills that he will eventually take into the workplace and draw on as he progresses in his career.

Pathways 2 Employment helps people like Archer, Zoe and Wolfie in 12 locations across Melbourne.

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