Helping young people who have experienced trauma get into the workforce – Michmutters

Helping young people who have experienced trauma get into the workforce

For 25-year-old Alana Cook, the thought of going into a business and asking for a job was scary.

“You read job applications and you’re like ‘There is no way that I’m ever going to get a job like that’,” she said.

When Ms Cook finished high school, she felt lost. She was living at home where she experienced issues with family and domestic violence.

A recommendation for her to go and live at the Youth Foyer in Shepparton, which provides safe and secure accommodation for young people who are unable to live at home, changed everything.

“I’ve never had that much support before. It was unusual for me for people to say, ‘Do you need help? Do you need anything?'” she said.

three women sitting at a bench in a park
Sarah Norris and Lisa Kerr hope that hearing about Alana Cook’s experience will help businesses better engage with the city’s young people.(ABC Shepparton: Courtney Howe)

The Foyer introduced Ms Cook to Jenny Foott from Foott Waste Solutions, which took the pressure off her needing to approach the business by herself.

“I didn’t have an interview,” Ms Cook said.

“I had a conversation with her explaining my situation and she explained the expectations that she had and that was a way of understanding both of our needs and where we could meet in the middle.”

Ms Cook said that conversation led her to work one day a week at Foott Waste and had given her the confidence to go after more jobs, while she undertook full-time study at Latrobe University in Shepparton.

Bringing employers and young people together

Ms Cook and Ms Foott will speak about their experience at a Youth Employment Summit this week in Shepparton, which will bring local businesses together to hear how they can attract and retain young people.

Sarah Norris is the senior youth investment coordinator with Better Futures and the Education First Youth Foyer Shepparton and is one of the people behind the summit.

Ms Norris said the idea was to help employers understand the issues being faced by young people in Shepparton, particularly those who had experienced trauma.

“A lot of people have experienced some form of stress themselves and they hopefully have not experienced significant trauma, but they’ve felt that stress and we all know how we personally react,” she said.

“I think in the cohorts that I work with it can manifest in different ways and sometimes the behavior that is demonstrated, which is just a symptom of the trauma and stress, can be interpreted incorrectly.”

Ms Norris said businesses were screaming out for workers and there were plenty of young people who wanted to stay and work in Shepparton.

“It’s about helping those employers tap into those resources and tap into young people who want to stay in Shepparton. They’re comfortable here, this is their home, this is their community, and we want to grow that.”

Shops down a street
Sarah Norris says Shepparton businesses are crying out for workers.(ABC Shepparton: Courtney Howe)

Strong interest from business community

Lisa Kerr from the Goulburn Murray Local Learning and Employment Network said there had been strong interest from businesses for the event.

She said there were many businesses in Shepparton that were finding ways to work with young people, and they hoped they could use those examples to show others what was possible.

“Whether it be some employment programs that they’re able to bring in or even just speak with their staff around expectations and coaching them a little bit,” Ms Kerr said.

“The idea is to showcase some of those businesses that are doing that, that are really open to embracing that in the workplace and realizing that things have changed over the past few years, and they have to be flexible and look at different ways that they can be included in their workplace.”

Ms Cook hoped sharing her experience would encourage other businesses to sit down and start a conversation.

“Be open to young people, have a conversation,” she said.

“You don’t always know what they’re experiencing or have experienced yourself, but some level of understanding and compassion is needed.”

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