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Thomas: Twenty-one, talent and his own individual support business

TAFE Queensland Ipswich graduate Thomas Martin had his potential recognised by a mate’s father, and such recognition took him on a career trajectory he could never have imagined.

“My friend’s dad ran a social service that offered a wide range of disability support and he saw something in me that made him think I could be a good support worker,” explained Thomas.

“So, after I left high school, he encouraged me to do the Certificate III in Individual Support – Disability (CHC33015) at TAFE Queensland.”

“I ended up finishing the course, doing the work and really liking it. It's not something I ever thought I was going to do, but I've ended up being successful with it, which is really good.”  

“I run a small service now myself, where I work with a couple of clients,” shared Thomas.

Day-to-day Thomas said he assists his clients with a varied range of tasks.

“It could be helping make a meal or getting involved in a dance class,” Thomas said.

“What I enjoy most is that every day is different, which means I’m always getting faced with a new challenge.”

“Looking to the future I would like to continue innovating new ways to help people,” he said.

At just twenty-one this is quite a feat, and especially so when you’ve no family ties to the industry. Thomas’ mother is a zone operations manager, and his father is a technician at a television station.

Thomas said that the engaging, hands-on learning environment, together with the support from his classmates and his industry-experienced trainer, helped prepare him for success.

We had a really good, tight-knit group as a class and it was just always fun. We had a lot of meetings, group chats, and we just all got along really well, and because of that, I think we all succeeded in the course,” he said.

“Deborah Heard is such a good teacher as well. Her extensive background in health meant she had real experience from out in the field.”

“I didn't really know anything about the practical side of working with people with disabilities, like making the beds, doing the hoisting, and I learned all of that, which was really valuable.”

“I've had situations where what Deb taught me came into play — she was really helpful,” said Thomas.

“Don’t ask my mum about whether I know how to make a bed though — she’ll tell you something different,” Thomas laughed.

The facilities at TAFE Queensland are good compared to the industry. It is pretty much the same, except you’re not working with a mannequin anymore — you’ve just got to be confident and use the equipment — it’s exactly the same as from your training,” continued Thomas. 

Thomas accessed the Queensland Government’s JobTrainer funding to complete a Certificate III in Individual Support – Disability (CHC33015) which is undertaken over nine months and includes an industry placement.

“The course covers all the things you can think of and then more that you haven’t. It teaches you what not to do and how to conduct yourself professionally,” he said.

“The units themselves are strong in promoting care for mental health, safe work practices, practical equipment use and equality for all,” Thomas shared.

“Placement was 120 hours of work, and then you use that work to answer the theory questions — which goes towards your final grade on the course.” 

“My proudest accomplishment throughout the course was probably my placement — which was at All 4 You Supports and Coordination Services. That was quite a big milestone, getting that placement booked in and getting all those hours done, and signing off. That was really a proud moment,” Thomas said.

“These days I work up to 40 hours a week with three or four participants. It’s a flexible 40 hours though as you aren’t constrained to the general 9-5. I really appreciate that I can maintain a healthy work-life balance,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ encourages those considering a similar career in care to enrol with TAFE Queensland.

“I think it's a really good option to just come in — to TAFE Queensland — and start picking up some qualifications, understanding that there are really good courses here on offer, to try,” said Thomas.

Thomas is one of the more than 460,000 support workers that make up the care economy in Australia and with a growing ageing population that’s expected to reach over 40 million by 2063, his skills are in strong demand.