It’s never easy to say goodbye to a job you love. Whether you’re a volunteer, doing work experience, or a paid team member, your last day can often be an emotional and humbling time.
As Jack stood behind the counter of his favourite restaurant bar in Maleny, he seemed reluctant to polish the final glasses left on his tray.
Jack knew that as he wiped the final speckles of water from these schooners, his time at Brouhaha, the trendy craft brewery, would be over.
This was the first time Jack had worked in hospitality or any job. Over the past three months, Jack tasted what employment was like through the EPIC “Job Taster” program.
The EPIC Job Taster program provides opportunities for students with disability in their final years at school to have real work experiences in various employment settings.
Managed and delivered by EPIC Assist (EPIC), the program provides opportunities for students to try and taste several workplace scenarios.
As Jack finished his last ‘scenario’, his manager Hayden said, “it’s time.”
Jack’s infectious smile dampened as Hayden put his arm around his shoulder and said, “let’s go out the back and say goodbye to the team.”
Walking out onto the back deck, overlooking the gorgeous Sunshine Coast hinterland, Jack met familiar faces beaming back at him.
Jack’s mum, sister, co-workers, and his employment coordinator from EPIC Assist were all there to congratulate him on finishing this first employment adventure. Or so he thought.
As the Brouhaha team huddled around their comrade, Hayden did his best to contain his emotions and deliver a proper managerial send-off speech.
His speech sounded as professional as you might expect, but nobody will likely remember it apart from the last line.
“Jack, we would like to offer you a job.”
With these words, a surge of excitement shot across the balcony. Jack beamed with joy as Hayden handed him an official Brouhaha team shirt.
Jack had just landed his first job.
“I got the job!” Jack exclaimed in a later interview.
As Jack fist-pumped his latest win into the air, his mum, Tessa, stood silently watching. A tear in her eye and a poignant look across her face. The kind only a parent that is genuinely in admiration of their child could express.
“I am so proud of him,” Tessa said.
“God, it’s amazing. This is the first time I’ve seen Jack in the workplace. I was so excited to come in today. I am so happy and relieved. I still must give Mariana a big hug.”
Mariana is EPIC’s Job Taster Coordinator. She is responsible for overseeing the program and helping participants like Jack take their first bites at employment.
Jack’s journey with Mariana and EPIC came about through a rather chance encounter.
“When Jack was finishing school, we had to start thinking about a pathway,” Tessa said.
“At the time, we decided to use a disability employment agency. So, we tried a few different ones. There’s a lot of choice for parents.”
Tessa said it was difficult to find a service that understood Jack’s needs, which led him to move between employment services and training organisations frequently.
“One day, I was working at Beerwah State High School, and Mariana came to help some of our students with work experience and the Job Taster programs,” she said.
“I thought, ooh, they’re doing really well with these kids. I’m going to try to change my son over to EPIC, and we did that successfully!”
Looking back on Jack’s employment journey this far, Mariana explained that Jack had come leaps and bounds over the past few months.
“In the beginning, I first noticed that Jack was preoccupied and insecure about his results. He has characteristics of being a perfectionist,” Mariana said.
“And he was slightly stressed about not getting his job done perfectly. It was a lack of confidence. He would have some moments where he could get really stressed and frustrated.”
Mariana explained that this was partly because of experience and the environment.
“I first took Jack on a tour of Maleny Dairies just to raise his understanding of what hospitality and a workplace looks like,” she said.
“We visited the farm and then on the way back I was like, Jack, I’m going to take you to see another place that I like.”
Cue the heavenly music. This was when things started to get exciting.
“As soon as we got here, we chatted with Hayden, and he offered to give Jack a go right there and then,” Mariana said.
“He did the work for two hours, and he was very happy, and he left on the first day, saying that he loved the place and would love to work there. That’s a perfect outcome for us.”
“Since starting, Jack has grabbed his confidence. He’s more conscious about himself, his body, his behaviour, and his mood with his co-workers and others,” she said.
“I’m so proud of him.”
Sometime later in the afternoon, when the news had sunk in and Jack was enjoying a celebratory lemon lime and bitters, we caught up with him to see how he was feeling.
“Oh, I was a bit worried at first. I thought it was the end,”Jack said.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to come back here. I got nothing to worry about. And then I got the job and the uniform. I got the job!”
There was no containing Jack’s enthusiasm that afternoon. But as Jack marvelled at his newfound employment position, he slowed down (momentarily) and reflected on his journey and the challenges he has faced.
“I have autism. And I am jumpy in environments I am not supposed to be,” Jack said.
“I get sick of that. I am okay with my jumping around, but I am just sick of how I end up sometimes doing it in spaces I’m not supposed to. This is not an environment for it. It’s an environment where you are serious. You’re trying to get the work done. You are focused on the job.”
“It’s not challenging, but I can’t stop jumping around the place when I am excited or nervous.”
For a man only just starting on his employment journey, Jack’s understanding of himself and the nature of his workplace will serve him well.
Jack is a man who is heading for greatness, and you best believe EPIC Assist will be with him every step of the way.
If you are living with a disability, injury, health condition, or mental health condition and looking to find meaningful employment, contact EPIC Assist today.
Want to learn more about EPIC’s Job Taster program?
If you live in the Sunshine Coast or Moreton Bay regions and are in your final years of schooling, EPIC’s Job Taster program can provide you with real work experiences in a variety of employment settings.
EPIC proudly partners with FAN (Food and Agribusiness Network) to deliver the Job Taster program. FAN has more than 370 members from across the food value chain located in Gympie, Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and beyond and is recognised nationally and internationally as a leading Australian food cluster.
If you’re interested in kickstarting your career, contact EPIC Assist today.