Blairlogie leads the way with student placements

Blairlogie Living & Learning is a non-profit community organisation based in South Cranbourne, Victoria that has been supporting people with disability since 1987. It is a small organisation, anchored in its community, and with a strong values base.

Our projectABLE student program was keen to collaborate with Blairlogie because of their enviable record with student placements. Sandra Shaw, Blairlogie’s Human Resources Manager, is the driving force behind it.

Sandra tells us that the student placement scheme was started with a ‘not-for-profit mindset’ of getting free pairs of hands to share the load. However, it soon became apparent that the arrangement had much more to offer both Blairlogie and the students.

Many of the students who take up the opportunity are studying for their Certificate IV – the level at which Blairlogie would hope to hire. Others are working towards a Certificate III or diploma. Around 90% of them come to Blairlogie from four local Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to fulfil the 120 hours requirement of their courses.

At the introduction stage, Blairlogie takes the time to find out about the students’ strengths and hobbies. It uses this information to match them with compatible Disability Support Workers. Many of Blairlogie’s programs are group activities, which offer a great way for the students to acclimatise. Over the course of the program, Blairlogie learns more about the students’ individual characters and skills. This is important in the context of the NDIS where, increasingly, support workers are recruited to work with specific individuals with particular needs.

The student placement program has now been running for over 3 years. Sandra can honestly say that of the 250 who have been through it, there were only two or three that she would not consider employing. Blairlogie has employed over 70 of the students that have completed their placement with Blairlogie.

Of course, as a small organisation, Blairlogie cannot take them all on as employees. However all those who complete the program take Blairlogie’s ethos with them, to the benefit of other employers.

Younger students also get an opportunity to participate, courtesy of Blairlogie’s strong community links. Partnerships with local schools see pupils as early as Year 6 coming in to do activities with Blairlogie’s customers. Sometimes it might be just to hang out or kick a footy around.

On other occasions, it has been training and sports coaching for the Tri State Games. Two current employees had their first contact with Blairlogie in Year 10. Both returned regularly until they secured their Certificate IV and subsequently found work with the organisation.

Blairlogie shares projectABLE’s ethos that exposure to people with disability may not necessarily lead to a career in the disability sector. What it can also do is make them better citizens who treat people with disability with respect, and accept and accommodate them in whatever walk of life.

Sandra says she gets a call ‘every couple of months’ from somebody who has had previous experience of the organisation: “I came in Year 6 and Blairlogie left a strong impression on me”. It is proof that you never know where small connections might lead…

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