At the start of the year, Brendon Storer couldn’t have imagined working in a classroom full of children.
But, with just the right mix of support and encouragement, during Fit For Work’s Work Readiness programme, he has found a permanent job that has changed his life.
The new position is also making a huge difference to the lives of his eager young pupils who are benefitting from his role as a Teachers’ Aide.
The Balclutha local had previously been supported by ACC for more than 20 years, alongside casual work as a mechanic’s assistant. The demands of the job were tough, dealing with cold workrooms and intense physical labour. A change was needed and he was open to trying something new.
He recommenced working with Occupational Therapist, Jessica Rodger after being referred to the Work Readiness programme in March. “Brendon was really motivated to work, but was unsure about certain work types,” Jess says. He had previously upskilled with Fit For Work by obtaining computer training and pre-employment preparation with Jess the previous year.
When it came time for Jess to start looking at work trial options, she encouraged Brendon to consider how great he would be working with children.
She sent an email to his nearby school, Stirling Primary, and received a call back from the principal within minutes.
Yes, came the response. They would love to offer Brendon a work trial.
Initially a little daunting for the mechanic’s assistant, he was soon blown away by the life-changing experience.
“You’re not doing the same thing every day. I’m quite an outdoors-person and I thought I’d struggle with being indoors, but I’m not stuck behind a computer all the time, I’m with the kids. I enjoy working with kids and helping them.”
Within the first week, Jess noticed a massive change in Brendon’s mindset.
“I’d never heard him so excited on the phone and he was asking me if he could do full hours, and so was the Principal,” she said.
For Brendon, the timing of his work trial could not have been more perfect.
When it was announced that a permanent position had become available, Jess jumped at the opportunity to encourage him to apply for the job.
Too late. Brendon had already beaten her to it.
Following an interview process, he was offered the job, and now works in the classroom supporting teachers with pupils who need extra input.
“It’s one-on-one reading, working in different classrooms with different age groups on maths, reading and science. It’s all been pretty easy, so far,” Brendon says.
“Fit For Work have been really caring and personal. I’m glad that I’ve got a job out of it and Jess has done really well.”
Brendon now works 27.5 hours a week and finds – with his background knowledge – he’s also become the go-to, fix-it man around the school.
For Jess, the results have been outstanding. Watching Brendon find his niche, in a place where he feels valued and an important member of the school family, has made her job all the more worthwhile.
“Brendon said to me, ‘I feel like I wake up in the morning and I have meaning and purpose to come to work’. It was all the words an OT wants to hear.”