Image: Dawson Ko working on his laptop.
“10 years ago, I had tried the conventional means of attempting to obtain my first post-graduate role… After 15+ applications and rarely progressing beyond the Interview stage, I was feeling pretty despondent about finding paid employment in my chosen profession. Then I was informed about the ‘Stepping Into’ program.”
Meet Dawson Ko and you’ll see a bubbly, intelligent, go-getting professional with a decade’s experience in the NSW Public Sector. Now employed in an organisation of 27,000 people,Dawson’s talent was first recognised 10 years ago when he joined NSW Transport as an intern through AND’s Stepping Into internship program.
Stepping Into is a paid internship program that matches talented university students with disability, with roles in leading Australian organisations. For students, it’s a chance to gain meaningful work experience during study. For businesses, it acts as a talent pipeline that helps cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace culture.
Dawson applied to the Stepping Into internship program after having a positive experience with AND’s PACE Mentoring program. In the summer university break he commenced work as an intern in Human Resources for the RMS. For Dawson, his 8-week internship led to being offered a position in their 2010 Graduate program – and he’s been working in NSWTransport ever since!
Dawson believes that the most important lesson he learnt from the internship was theopportunity to prove to himself that he was capable. Like many jobseekers he believed his disability was a barrier to employment. He confessed that before he did AND’s PACE and Stepping Into programs, he had his own mental barrier due to his disability and didn’t know if he’d ever find a job.
“I had heard it all along, throughout my days at university ‘It’s going to be hard to find an employer who is willing to employ someone with disability'”.
After completing the internship and then completing the 3-year graduate program, Dawson moved across different roles developing his skills and capabilities. He also explored his likes and dislikes. Today, he currently holds a senior position and still loves working in the NSW public sector.
Dawson’s ‘can-do attitude’ helped him to open doors and gain new experiences andopportunities.
“Embracing new things with a childlike curiosity allowed me to move from HumanResources, to Project management, to business support, to Data analytics”.
Dawson believes that PACE Mentoring and the Stepping Into program opens doors and heconcludes,
“Once you have a foot in the door, anything is possible as it’s all up to you then!”
For participating organisations such as the RMS, the Stepping Into program has assisted their journey towards accessibility and inclusion in the workplace, with 92% of supervisorsstating they increased their disability confidence through the program.