After spending the past four weeks doing work experience at the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens, Merri River College student Declan Baulch is keen to find part-time work in the gardening industry.
Declan, 16, was one of four students to undertake work experience at the Warrnambool City Council as part of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Disability Work Experience Project, with Merri River School VCAL Teacher Ken Radley saying that the program has been transformative for the young people involved.
“Our school is extremely grateful for the opportunity to have our students undertake work experience,” he said.
“On the back of securing his place at the Botanic Gardens and meeting the team, Declan has told his mum that he’d like to look for a part-time job.
“I believe the fact that he is doing work experience has increased his self-esteem and willingness to try new things.”
And after almost completing his month of work at the gardens, Declan said he couldn’t be happier.
“I like every single bit. (I’ve been) planting trees, watering, blowing leaves,” he said.
“Everyone was really nice.”
Warrnambool Mayor Cr Vicki Jellie said that as one of 12 Councils chosen to participate in the MAV Disability Work Experience Project, the Warrnambool City Council was proud to show leadership in the area.
“The aim of the project is to look at differing work experience models to see what the barriers and drivers of a successful work experience program might look like for people with disability,” she said.
“From there, this knowledge can be shared with other Councils, or any other organisations for that matter, to help create more meaningful employment and training opportunities.
“By potentially making small changes to our workplaces and systems, we can create a more accommodating environment and tap into the skills and passions of a more diverse workforce.”
Warrnambool City Council Team Leader Trees and Botanics John Sheely agreed, saying that as well as providing valuable experience for young people, the program allows Council look at new ways to help people with disability show their capabilities and strengths.
“Declan has shown a great interest, and he’s enthusiastic about the work,” he said.
“It’s a really good program that allows us to refine our work and reflect on what we do, allowing us to question why we do things and break tasks into steps.
“It’s been great having Declan along. He’s been part of the team and really accepted that challenge well.”
The program will continue in Term Three, with three more Merri River School students to undertake work experience at Council.