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Trish McQueen is eagerly awaiting her graduation to mark her completion of the National Certificate in Foundation Skills.

“I have a disability, and I have the right to do what I want to do,” says Trish. “I set this goal because I wanted to challenge my brain and do something different.”

Supported living organisation, Community Connections, goes the extra mile to encourage the people they support to achieve their goals. Learning and development is a key focus among support workers and staff, and Trish could now be setting a new precedent.

“I think I have good leadership skills, and I wanted to develop those skills. My support worker and I came up with a plan, and I started the training last year,” says Trish.

A Consumer Leadership Development grant was accessed through disability workforce development at Te Pou, which enabled learning coach Bev Pittuck to support Trish.

“Trish had an awesome understanding of the concepts in this qualification,” says Bev. “As someone living with a disability, she is acutely aware of the situations people face, and she could empathise with a lot of the material.

“This is a really unique perspective – it kind of turns the training on its head.”

Foundation Skills graduate Trish McQueen (right) is joined by Learning Coach Bev Pittuck (middle) and Community Connections Service Co-ordinator Tina Auckram (left).

Foundation Skills graduate Trish McQueen (right) is joined by Learning Coach Bev Pittuck (middle) and Community Connections Service Co-ordinator Tina Auckram (left).

As Foundation Skills is vocationally focused and requires trainees to be in work, Trish was able to volunteer as a support worker as part of a buddy scheme. “The work experience enabled Trish to answer some of the questions, and the Careerforce CD and resources were useful,” says Bev.

“Our weekly sessions would start with a coffee and a motivational chat. Sometimes it was tough, but we’d talk about how we could best work through the unit standards – I would often act as scribe and Trish would work through it all.”

Tina Auckram, Service Co-ordinator for Kapiti, says Community Connections’ strong belief on learning and development means it is always challenging itself to do better for the people it supports.

“Everyone is involved in training and learning. We all have to do Core Competencies, and it’s wonderful that Trish wanted to participate and achieve this goal. We’re walking the talk here – it’s really positive.”