Nick's story: From plasterer to Disability Support Worker

Career change from plasterer to Disability Support Worker “the best thing” Nick has ever done

Nick Slack is loving his complete career change; having joined Yooralla’s disability support team at our Wonthaggi residential service in 2020, after calling time on his long-term career as a plasterer.

Nick embarked on a bit of a journey before deciding to pursue disability support work, originally wanting to get into helping at-risk young males.

“I always seem to have employed young apprentices [in plastering] and found myself as a role model for these guys to give them some direction,” he said. “I started a Diploma in Community Service as I was interested in helping troubled young males find their ways on the right path. As I progressed through the course, my interest changed to wanting to support vulnerable people with disabilities.

“My career as a plasterer had become less challenging and I always wanted to give something back and work in a field where I was helping others. Just at a time I wanted to get into something [different] I thought I’d give it a go and see. It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done really. I put myself out there to give it a go and I love it.

“The new role is really rewarding. I really enjoy being a disability support worker because I am making a positive difference to my customers (residents) outlook, for their day-to-day living,” said Nick.

A typical day for Nick might involve taking customers out into the community, including to personal and medical appointments and supporting them to interact in the community, providing support with personal care, supporting customers to help out with meals and doing a bit of cooking himself, going for a walk or to the beach, and being there for general day-to-day activities that customers need support with.

He works on a roster which includes days and sleepover (night) shifts, which gives him flexibility around his personal commitments. Although the jobs of plasterer and disability support worker might seem about as different as two roles can be; many people coming to disability support work from other careers find they have some transferable life and professional skills to complement the comprehensive training Yooralla provides, as was Nick’s experience.

“I think my past career has helped me in this role with being able to overcome any problems that arise – managing my way through site issues etc. You develop a bit of a think on your feet approach,” he said.

Nick has also appreciated the reduced physical labour in his new role, “the job of plastering is quite physical – and getting older you break down – to try to keep a healthy lifestyle and do a physical job it’s hard to find that balance,” he said.

For Nick, the transition from his former career, through Yooralla’s pre-employment checks and disability support training, to working on the ground in a Yooralla residential service, was smooth. “The training is pretty good; and the [pre-employment] screening etc quite straightforward. I had four or five training sessions onsite, epilepsy training, positive behaviour support… and we are constantly doing training and through online eLearning. Working onsite you have good refreshers. If I need to find anything it’s there on the intranet – policies etc,” he said.

Nick has found the team at Wonthaggi great to work alongside, “it’s a really good team environment at the service,” he said.

For Nick, the highlight so far in his role with Yooralla has been making connections with customers. “They like to sit next to me, and we talk as best we can. We have a good connection,” Nick said.

Everyone enjoys a few laughs at the residence too. Nick said that he and one customer, Craig, are known around the service as “twins” due to their similarities in appearance!

And the best thing about his role? 

“Seeing the guys faces light up when you walk through the door, you know you’re making a difference to their lives,” said Nick.

Does this sound like a role you’d be interested in? 

Yooralla is now recruiting for community-based and residential Disability Support Worker roles across Melbourne and regional Victoria. If you’re a passionate communicator who will be committed to empowering people with disability to reach their goals – we want you

You’ll support our customers to access the community and recreational opportunities and in aspects of daily living, and you’ll get a rewarding role and flexibility with hours to work in around your family, study or other commitments.

To find out more about working in disability support for Yooralla, visit Working as a DSW at Yooralla, or to apply for opportunities, visit our current vacancies.

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