Year 12 students consider sector with 70,000 new jobs

Grace Vegesana is planning to study law at university once she graduates, but says her perspective on the popular subject has completely changed since she learnt more about the disability and care sector.

"I do legal studies and a lot of people in my class have come to the realisation that even though law students face high [rates of] underemployment, there are jobs in the area," the year 12 Girraween High School student said.

She is one of nearly 8000 year 10, 11 and 12 students across Australia who have attended workshops on the expected impact of the National Disability Insurance Scheme on jobs in coming years.

The sessions, run under the government-funded projectABLE initiative, have been held at about 300 high schools.

The Productivity Commission has forecast that about 70,000 jobs, or one in five of all new jobs in Australia, will be created in the disability sector by 2019 as a result of the multi-billion dollar scheme, which aims to improve support for people with disabilities.

Sara Hirst, 29, who has been vision-impaired since birth and is a presenter at the workshops, said projectABLE aimed to make students more "comfortable with disability" and show them that most traditional jobs can be applied to the sector.

"Most jobs that pop to your mind, whether it's CEO, engineer, architect, doctor, music therapist, psychologist, sports therapist, you would be able to apply to the disability sector," Ms Hirst said.

"A lot of students are having trouble finding work, but it's the opposite in the sector. They'll just be looking for work as it booms and there will be lots of room to grow.

"And I think it's rewarding, they have the ability to really change the world as they go forward."

Grace said she wants to focus on environmental law and policy advisory and help "move into a world in which everyone has equal opportunity".

"We spoke to people who have different levels of disabilities and I think that, with the built environment, we can change the structure of buildings to change aspects of everyone's lives and support people with disabilities in living the best life they can live."

Jasmin Banwait, who is also in year 12 at Girraween, said she was interested in studying medicine after school, and first did a projectABLE workshop in year 10.

"It made me aware that medicine is not just about helping people with heart disease or cancer, you can also go into fields like rehabilitation," she said.

"The program was more practical and exposed us to disabilities more directly. It made us realise that there are everyday realities that we don't consider.

"[And] I didn't realise that there were so many career opportunities in the sector."

The school's career advisor, Eman Youhanna, said she was also surprised when she first learnt about the initiative in 2009.

"It was an eye-opener about the sector, not just for the students but even myself," Ms Youhanna said.

"It made the students socially aware of different people around them and their needs, and I'm sure they will consider the disability and care factor in whatever course they're doing."

Olivia Princi, a projectABLE team member, said many of the students she speaks to are initially a bit nervous because "they haven't been exposed to people with disabilities".

"But once they know what it's like to have a disability they go, okay, you're the same, you just have to find a different way of doing things.

"Even when they weren't considering a job in the sector at all, they definitely start thinking about it differently. Many of them have come to us at the end and said it's something they'd consider."

This story Year 12 students consider sector with 70,000 new jobs first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.