Jake Miller has landed a job working for a Dunedin manufacturer of industrial doors. He is gaining confidence and making new friends. It is changing his life.
Jake is 21 and has autism, and this is his first proper paid job since he left Taieri College in 2016. He wants to work. He has been lending a hand at his father Michael’s kitchen joinery workshop and, even now when he has regular employment, he still works a day a week as a volunteer car groomer.
But being willing to work is not enough. One of the toughest things facing young people with disabilities is finding a job once school is over. In Jake’s case it was his employer who came looking.
Mark Taylor, General Manager of Tru-Bilt Industries, decided he wanted to offer an opportunity to a young person with a disability. He had a recruitment agency approach IDEA Services in Dunedin to find the right person and Jake, who attends IDEA’s Switch youth service, was the successful candidate. He is on a one-year contract subsidised by the Ministry of Social Development’s Mainstream Employment programme.
Mark says working for Tru-Bilt has been a steep learning curve for Jake, but also for the company in understanding his capabilities and knowing how best to support him. On Mondays and Wednesdays Jake works in the manufacturing workshop where he might be lifting, sweeping or packaging. On Fridays his job is to clean the offices.
Having a willing team around Jake has made all the difference to him being able to complete tasks. One of his chief supporters is IDEA Services Support Worker Jade Bray, who has come up with visual prompts to help Jake know how many bolts need to go into a package, or which cleaning tasks need to be completed.
Danielle McConnell of recruitment agency Human Connections Group says if there’s an issue, Jade arrives at Tru-Bilt and can come up with an answer off the top of her head. “She is involved at every level. I am privileged to work with Jade, who can provide initiatives and strategies that I wouldn’t have thought of.”
Jake says he likes it at Tru-Bilt. “I feel really happy and really great – and it gets me out of the house,” he says. “I like the people as well. I like it all.”
Shayne Miller, Jake’s Mum, says he is more focused. “He has a purpose to get up and get organised in the mornings.” He is also walking further – between his Dad’s workshop and Tru-Bilt – and gaining in confidence.
Jake's growth in confidence is “one of the things that gives us a real buzz”, Mark says. “His Mum says his confidence levels have gone through the roof.”
Photo caption: Jake Miller (seventh from left) with his Tru-Bilt workmates in the manufacturing workshop.
This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.