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It’s a new program funded by the NDIA for up to two years and is designed to help young people with disability gain the independence, skills and confidence to transition from school to employment.

Our SLES participants Alistair and Chelsea who are living with autism and James, who has down syndrome, are fresh out of year 12 and eager to chase their career dreams in hospitality.

The three teenagers are undertaking hands-on training and work experience at our Panorama site under the guidance of Bedford’s SLES and onboarding manager Juli Roberts.

“This course not only builds students’ independence and confidence in shopping for food or preparing meals it also provides broader training to help students obtain a driver’s licence, catch public transport, buy clothes and there’s even a make-up course,” Juli said.

“Another critical component is teaching interview skills and how to respond to questions openly and not shut off, which will help our team progress to open employment.”

Juli said all three students have already come a long way since starting with Bedford only a few short months ago.

“The first week was very scary for everyone. All three participants had just finished school, so they were quite shy, withdrawn and nervous to start off with,” she said.

“But since that first week, they’ve grown immensely. We now have parents asking us to push the boundaries and see if that individual who feared public transport or going to the shops could now be assisted in obtaining their L plates.”

Having graduated from St Patrick’s Special School just last year, Alistair has sights set on getting his L plates.

“I like both the training and work experience side of the program. I hope to one day serve food to people at an Italian restaurant,” he said.

Bedford is proud to help young school leavers build the skills and expertise they need to chase their career dreams. To find out more about our SLES program call (08) 8275 0211.