There’s nothing more satisfying than studying for an upcoming exam and then passing it with flying colours. For clients at Challenge Community Services in Quirindi, that’s exactly what’s been happening regularly for the past 18 months.

We sat down with Max Raglus, a Support Worker with Challenge, about getting people with disability into the workforce, what it means to his clients, and how the future is looking bright in Quirindi.

A wealth of qualifications

In addition to a range of other general support activities, Max spends his time helping clients at Challenge Quirindi seek out and attain qualifications that will help them reach their goals – whether that’s to get into the workforce on a part-time basis or simply have some fun and learn a few new skills.

In the past 18 months, Max says clients have attained everything from basic driving licences – including L-plates and motorcycle class R licences – to complex bobcat and forklift qualifications, as well as safe food handling tickets.

“We actually did a three-day group training course with LDO, an organisation in Gunnedah, covering the excavator ticket, forklift licence and bobcat licence,” Max says. “So the guys who participated officially got the proper licences to use all that machinery.”

In addition, the guys are currently doing work experience at the local Imperial Hotel and Quirindi Food Bank.

Making inroads with the local workforce

The goal for many is to use these qualifications for extracurricular activities, particularly joining the workforce in a part-time capacity.

“About half of the guys want to actually get into the workforce,” he says. “So we work on getting their physical capabilities up to a level where they can maintain a regular workload. But even if they don't continue with a particular job, they are still getting into the workforce part-time and doing something they enjoy.

“This all basically started with two clients, Darren and Justin, starting work at the Tamworth Recycling Centre. Their duties included sorting the recycling and rubbish on the conveyor belt, as well as general maintenance work. But the licensing goes hand in hand with increasing their workload, because when they are qualified to use the forklift machine, they will have to get it renewed as a physical licence every three years.”

Finding the right network

Max says in addition to finding and accessing the right certifications for his clients’ needs, which is often done through Smart & Skilled Tamworth, it’s Challenge’s partnership with the training group LDO that has been a match made in heaven.

“We did our recent training through LDO in Gunnedah and I highly recommend them. They catered the course to our guys and made it a bit more hands-on with fewer tests and less writing. There was some writing required though, and the trainers helped both the support workers and our clients to get it done the right way.”

Seeing a diversity of goals achieved

Having previously worked as a sports coach and in a role where he helped youths and adults get job-based training through the government, Max is well suited to supporting people with disability gain the skills they need to find a job they deserve. And the payoff for Max? Seeing his clients thrive.

“For me, it’s all about seeing the guys achieve something,” he says. “So basically that means helping them get the certificates and knowing that they have achieved something. Some of them find this drive in themselves to go out and find employment, while others just go into the training to have a bit of fun with the other guys and learn new skills with equipment, machinery, cars or whatever the qualification might involve.”

At the end of the day, Max says the most important thing is looking after a group of like-minded individuals with a passion for learning and growth.

You can find out more about Challenge Quirindi Day Program and the wide range of disability services provided by Challenge by calling 1800 679 129 or email disablityservices@challegnecommunity.org.au