Northcott’s new ‘Support Assistant’ program feeds new passion

By Luisa Bustos and Belinda Magritzer, 9 July 2020 , Comments

More than half the participants in the first cohort of Northcott’s new Support Assistant paid internship program will join our workforce as Support Workers. Former hospitality worker, Kristopher Reyes is one of them. After completing the training program which included learning modules and more than 60 hours of work experience, Kris started working as a Support Worker in late June, joining the team at our Housing service in Baulkham Hills.

“I’ve found my passion. I feel excited [to be a Support Worker]. Now I’m able to do the things I was only watching when I was a Support Assistant…and build rapport and trust with customers and my co-workers,” Kristopher says.

Prior to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Kris was managing the kitchen of a not-for-profit cafe in Penrith that was forced to close. He lost his job. Having only arrived in Australia from the Philippines last year, it was a difficult time for him.

“It was really hard. I was the only one supporting my family. Then, in the last week of April, when Northcott asked me to have an interview [for the program], it felt like a blessing.”

The Support Assistant internship was developed by Northcott and Western Sydney University (WSU) in response to workforce shortages in disability as a result of Coronavirus. The program targets workers from other sectors such as hospitality who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and have no prior experience working with people with disability.

Belinda Magritzer, Northcott’s Human Resources Business Partner, said the model she helped design combines two days of training with two days of on-the-job work experience.

“We wanted to give participants exposure to the disability sector in a way that was supportive, immersive and meaningful,” Belinda says.

The training Kristopher completed, which was delivered by WSU’s pathways provider The College, covered topics including individualised support, safe work practices for direct client care, communication and work in health or community services, and ethics. To enhance their learning, Kristopher and the other participants also worked two shifts per week with a Northcott service, such as one of our Housing services or Everyday Life Skills programs.

At the end of the four week program, the participants walked away with four units of competency in a Certificate III in Individual Support.

Kristopher says the model worked well, giving participants the chance to immediately put into practice the things they were learning in the classroom.

According to Belinda, a recruitment campaign in April attracted 30 participants to the program, which was run throughout May and June.

“We had an overwhelming response and were able to quickly bring on-board suitable candidates. The feedback from this first group of graduates has been positive, with many saying they have learnt a lot about disability and people with disability,” Belinda says.

With a brother in the Philippines who is in the autism spectrum and vision impaired, Kris has personal experience of disability. However, he learnt a lot about Australia’s disability sector and the best ways to support people with disability from the training.

“I have been self taught, caring for my brother. The program has given me a lot more information. It really opened a lot of opportunities for me and a lot of lessons for me,” he says.

“I didn’t know what would come after the program or training. I love the job and my co-workers. They helped me and showed the ropes. They gave me the information to make me confident to be a support worker.”

Related content

For more about the program, read about our partnership with Western Sydney University.

Want to know about being a support worker at Northcott? Wilmot has shared his story.

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