Garry’s story- finding the right fit for each individual

My name is Garry Field. I’m the regional manager for Essential Employment and Training. I  manage all our programs in the Shoalhaven area , from Kiama in the north to Ulladulla in the south. At Essential we help people with a disability find work and  gain new skills to participate in the community. Through our  social enterprise café and farmers markets we help many young people facing adversity get the hands on experience they need to become job ready.

For the past fourteen years I have worked in the disability sector. My first experience working in the disability sector was working for DOCS (now Family and Community Services) on a twelve month contract in Goulburn. This was my first introduction to anybody with a disability.When working as a  case worker, you really  get to know a person well. I enjoyed forming these relationships and supporting  people with disabilities. After my contract finished I  worked in other areas but found I missed working with people with disabilities. I missed having a job where I could assist  people achieve there goals. I missed the people and staff. I knew I had to get back into the disability sector.

At Essential we assist  people to find work. This is about self-esteem. Everybody wants to work. Everybody wants to earn their own money. And everybody wants to buy their own things. It gives a person great pride to have their own uniform, their own pay, their own  work colleagues, to catch the bus and train everyday together – it’s something we all strive for.

A story to illustrate. We had a young fellow we supported with Asperger’s. He liked everything  straight, in an order and in its right place He didn’t like a dirty environment and wouldn’t work in a factory or a (greasy, dirty) mechanic shop. We got to know the young man  very well  as a person and not a condition.  Somebody in the office came up with the idea that maybe a library would be a good fit for him.

Well, that young man exceeded all expectations.  11 years later he is still in the  local library and is no longer a client. In fact he wins all the awards for customer service there. You see when there’s a blackout and all the computers in the library are out, this young man knows exactly where all the books are. He can literally go and find any book in the library without the computer. Customers know this and go straight to him.

Also this young man can’t stand seeing a book that’s tattered. He has to get the book out and fix it, re-cover it and make it perfect. 11 years ago when he started there were hundreds and hundreds of books that needed to be repaired. Now because of him there are no books needing repairs.

At Essential our role is to find the right fit, the right place for each individual. In this case the man’s disability was also his greatest asset.

I still get excited when young people come and volunteer with us. I get excited when people enter the disability sector and I see them grow as people. You see we have a wonderful time here. Our clients have the best jokes. Our clients are so passionate. And we consider most of our clients to be good friends.

That’s why I make time in my busy schedule to host projectABLE workshops. For the past three years I have led projectABLE workshops throughout the South Coast, Southern Highlands and Goulburn. Indeed the projectABLE workshops are the highlight of my year. The disability sector is a wonderful place to work and projectABLE is a wonderful avenue to communicate this to young people.



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