Kyle carves out a future at Dundowran Engineering

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Kyle Clancy is no ordinary woodworker.

The skilled Hervey Bay craftsman lives with an intellectual disability, and he spends his days turning slabs of timber into unique pieces of furniture.

Kyle learnt woodworking during high school. He had some experience with hand tools but hadn’t yet been allowed to try his hand at something with a bit more vroom – the power tools.

Living with a disability, a lot of people had lumped power tools into the ‘not capable’ or ‘too hard’ basket for Kyle. Bevan Yates, an Employment Consultant at EPIC Assist (EPIC), saw something different though.

Kyle lies under a chair he is building, cranking the screw into place.
Kyle builds unique chairs and tables at Dundowran Engineering.

Kyle joined EPIC in 2016 through a school-based traineeship in retail. After completing his traineeship at Coles and trying out his hand in a food preparation role at Bayside Transformations for six months, Kyle was looking for the next challenge and Bevan knew exactly where to find it.

With Kyle’s woodmaking skills in mind, Bevan approached Kevin Scougall, Owner/Manager at local business Dundowran Engineering, about creating a position for Kyle.

Kevin and his wife started the steel fabrication business in 1992. Their business spans from general repairs and machining, to steel fabrication and wielding. But more recently with the construction of a new slabbing saw, Kevin saw an opportunity to branch out into timber cutting.

That’s where Kyle comes in.

Initially, Kevin was a little bit hesitant about hiring a person with disability. But after seeing Kyle in action and learning that EPIC would be supporting Kyle every step of the way, Kevin decided to give him a go.

Ten months later and Kyle is proving anyone who ever doubted him wrong with his skills on the power tools. With the help of Bevan as his support worker, Kyle has learnt how to use everything from the belt sander to the cordless drill. For Kyle though, it’s the angle grinder that stands out from the pack.

“My favourite tool is the grinder. I use the grinder all the time to grind the chairs and tables,” Kyle said.

“I feel a lot more confident now that I’ve learnt how to use tools.”

Kyle uses his newfound skills with power tools to build tables and chairs from Dundowran Engineering’s leftover slabs of timber. The business then sells Kyle’s creations as one-off pieces of furniture.

Taking a look at Kyle’s creations, there’s no doubt he pours everything into them. Handcrafted furniture is a strenuous task, and it takes Kyle around eight hours to finish building one chair. From cutting the timber to sanding the slabs smooth and even painting and drilling the wood into unique designs, the furniture is a hit with customers.

Out of all his customers though, Kevin says that Kyle is most proud to show-off his creations to his mother.

“His enthusiasm is very infectious. Seeing him with a big smile on his face and bringing his mother out to show her what he’s been doing, it’s been good,” Kevin said.

Kyle has improved in many ways since starting his role at Dundowran Engineering. For Bevan, it’s the change to his confidence that is most notable.

“Kyle has become more vocal, speaking with peers and his employer more, and following instructions a lot better,” Bevan said.

“He’s learnt new skills that people didn’t think he was capable of.”

Kyle measures the length of a timber slab.
It takes Kyle around eight hours to build one chair from scratch.

EPIC’s ongoing support has made all the difference in helping Kyle become more independent in both work and home life. He hopes to save money to buy a car and maybe even a house one day.

“They have been really helpful in getting me a job to earn money. They always help me with stuff,” Kyle said.

Part of Bevan’s role as an Employment Consultant and Post-Placement Support Officer is to help Kyle in any way possible.

“I took Kyle out shopping before he started his job at Dundowran to fix him up with everything he’d need – work clothes, work boots, safety visors,” said Bevan.

“Now, I stick next to Kyle while he’s working to make sure the workplace environment is safe, and that Kyle is operating all the tools in a safe manner.

“If he needs a hand with anything, I’m there to jump in.”

Kevin says that having EPIC on board from day one was crucial to making the job work and teaching Kyle the ropes.

“EPIC are a good lot of people. They’re easy-going and very approachable. They’re ready to help if they have to,” Kevin said.

“Knowing that Bevan is there as a support worker for Kyle makes it easier for me and him. That help is really important.”

If you or someone you know is looking for help finding, preparing, and maintaining work, get in touch with EPIC today.

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