Willing workforce

The pandemic has seen a rapid rise in businesses wanting to work with Down Syndrome WA.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, businesses are struggling to find skilled workers as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Down Syndrome WA chair Kathryn Salt says the desperate need for workers has caused a spike in businesses reaching out to the organisation.

“We are wondering why we are suddenly getting all these inquiries and we think it’s because businesses don’t have access to back packers and all that sort of employment opportunities anymore,” she says.

“When they read our programmes, they read that our people love jobs, they love being social, they thrive on routine and once they are taught a skill, they perfect it.

“They are loyal employees and will work at an organisation forever.”

Businesses are reaching out. Video: Jesmine Cheong.

Ms Salt says a lot of tourism operators in the southwest of WA have shown interest in working with the association.

“You train one of our people up, who is really motivated to work in open employment, for eight to 10 weeks you probably got them for 10 to 15 years,” she says.

“They are not transient like ‘I’m in the southwest for a year of my life while I’m backpacking around Australia’.

“These people are passionate to be in open employment and an employer is going to get a very happy, social, hardworking employee who is motivated to have a job for life.”

Ms Salt says during lockdowns a lot of people with a diagnosis of Down syndrome were not able to work from home because of the types of jobs they did.

“They were in the house when they would have been in the workplace, for a few hours each day, a few days a week,” she says.

“So, their connection with their social community had also gone.”

Suzanna Olsen and staying connected. Photo: supplied.

Down Syndrome WA social program coordinator Suzanna Olsen says the social group ‘Aim High’ was shifted to an online platform to keep their members engaged.

“I know a lot of them stopped work due to whatever logistics,” she says.

“We started brainstorming how we could keep our members engaged and connected and that’s when the idea of running virtual meetups over zooms came into action.

“We did a cooking class, a talent show, a dance class, Brazilian martial arts, a show and tell and yoga and mindfulness.”

Joseph Salt has a diagnosis of Down syndrome and works for the Perth City Council in the customer engagement team.

Joseph Salt talks about staying connecting during lockdowns. Video: Jesmine Cheong.

Mr Salt was unable to work during lockdowns but stayed connected with his co-workers through online platforms.

“I really like the Perth City Council,” he says.

“For lockdowns for COVID 19, I used the Teams app to phone all the work colleagues.

“So that is fun.”

Vinnies employee Benjamin Henson says Down Syndrome WA has helped him get a job through the ‘Get Ready for Work’ programme.

“I learnt how to get dressed and talk for an interview,” he says.

“I like working at Vinnies.

“I like getting ready for work, singing songs and telling jokes, my favourite thing to do is putting away the CDs.”

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