Support you can find in every aisle: FoodWorks Hervey Bay supports the disability community

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Like most small cities, Hervey Bay is passionate about placing community first.

One small business is putting this ethos into action. Tucked away just a short drive down the road from the Hervey Bay Airport, is a family-run business making a real difference in the lives of local young people with disability.

FoodWorks Hervey Bay is a small, independent supermarket committed to supporting its community and other local businesses.

With support from local disability employment service EPIC Assist, FoodWorks employs three staff with disability: Luke, Kaleb, and Curtis.

Although Jessica and Adrian had some initial reservations about hiring staff with disability, they knew their business was in a great position to make a difference in someone’s life. That wasn’t something they were going to pass up on.

“I know from working at other bigger corporations that they don’t always give people with disabilities opportunities for employment, and we’re blessed to be able to do that,” said Jessica.

“Having the support from EPIC has allowed us to make that a reality. We currently employ fourteen employees ranging in ages and abilities, including the three boys from EPIC.”

EPIC Assist (EPIC) has been supporting businesses for over 30 years to remove barriers in the workplace, improve their understanding of disability and mental health at work, and hire quality staff with a disability.

It can be difficult to know where to start when hiring someone with disability for the first time. What particularly stood out to Jessica was how easy it was.

“The support is always there if you need it. Whenever we’ve had to call for support, someone from EPIC was here the next day,” said Jessica.

“So, we’ve had ongoing personal support, store-level support, in-store support working side-by-side with the boys. You have the financial support as well, which has allowed us to spend extra time with the boys training them, progressing them, and bringing them out of their shells.”

Sometimes, staff need a little extra leg up when getting ready for employment. Before starting their jobs at FoodWorks, EPIC Assist helped train and get Luke, Kaleb, and Curtis work ready. For Kaleb, that included undertaking some further accredited training.

“They’ve put me through courses to help me be more employable. There was a Certificate II in Retail I did with EPIC when I was still at school and a Certificate III in Hospitality. They also paid for a pair of boots, so I had the right work gear,” said Kaleb.

Two staff at FoodWorks, Caleb and Curtis, stack the shelves at FoodWorks.
Kaleb and Curtis both help stack the shelves at FoodWorks and keep track of stock.

For Adrian, seeing the boys progress over the last seven months has been incredible. Luke, Kaleb, and Curtis have all improved in their retail skills and become more confident since they started in their roles.

“It’s been really great. They’re slowly coming out of their shells,” said Adrian.

“There is definitely some stigma in society around hiring people with disability, unfortunately. But there shouldn’t be. They’re no different to anyone else.”

Luke’s job at FoodWorks has been a game-changer in improving his mental health. Stable and supportive employment is an important step in improving your mental health and wellbeing. Luke has experienced this firsthand, explaining how working at FoodWorks helps him fill the time, get out of the house, and keep busy.

“Since starting at FoodWorks, my mood has improved and I’ve been less depressed because I’m coming here every day,” said Luke.

“As a person, I think I’ve changed too. I speak a bit louder. I can talk to people better.”

Jessica and Adrian believe more businesses should follow in their footsteps and prioritise inclusive and diverse hiring. Their message to other businesses is clear: employing people with disability is a no-brainer.

“Go for it, give it a go. You can’t lose. They all want to work, that’s what makes the difference. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t want to work, but these guys always do,” said Adrian.

If you’re thinking of hiring a person with disability, start the conversation with us today by phoning 13 EPIC (3742) or sending us a message.

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