Build your skills
Are you a disability support worker looking to upskill and move ahead in your career?
Perhaps you are passionate about working in the disability sector, but looking for a different role?
Here are some links to resources and information that disability workers may find useful.
Information about the different roles available in the disability sector.
The Victorian Skills Gateway is a valuable resource for exploring vocational education and training options offered by TAFE and training providers, and for making informed career decisions. By using the keyword search function, you can explore the latest Victorian TAFE and training opportunities to further your disability career.
Free TAFE for priority courses reduces financial barriers to further study. Individuals can train in courses that lead to jobs that are in demand from Victorian employers. Free TAFE for priority courses covers tuition fees for individuals who are eligible for government-subsidised training.
Find out if you are eligible for one of the many Free TAFE courses currently available - including a Certificate IV in Disability.
Kelly is a teacher and mentor who enjoys inspiring disability support workers and the people they support to become more independent.
Kelly’s interest in disability support work was first sparked by her experience supporting her sister who has an intellectual disability to live independently.
A desire to help others continually improve disability services is what drives Kelly's work. Starting off as a disability support worker, she progressed over six years – first to a position leading the implementation of Supported Independent Living (SIL) at Scope, to eventually became a SIL Practice Coach.
“Changing to the SIL model is a gradual process. I visit houses and observe what’s happening with people with disability and the interactions that go on, sometimes this includes coaching staff to step back to help build stronger independence for the people they support,” Kelly says.
“it’s about supporting them where and when they really need it. People are often surprised at the progress that can come from small changes.”
Kelly enjoys engaging with staff and the people with disability they support to get down to the conversations that will spark change and create a positive momentum within teams.
“Some of our facilities are at different stages on their journey to implementing the SIL model. I’ll often visit the same facility several times before organising a staff meeting to give feedback. We have great discussions about what we can do for each person in that home.
“I really enjoy going back into a home after setting some tasks over 12 months and for staff to see the benefit of what they did. When we sit down together and list all the little ways people are participating and becoming more independent, we can really see the areas where they’ve learned new skills.”
Reflecting on how different her career in disability has been from her expectations, Kelly is eager to challenge some of the common perceptions of support work.“I used to think of disability support work as meal assistance and bathroom changes but it’s so much more than that. It’s about connecting with people, supporting them to grow, to be out in the community, to advocate for them – helping them achieve what they want in life.”
Kelly notes that the disability sector offers significant training and professional development opportunities.
“After your basic training, there are many opportunities to expand your knowledge and learn new skills in important areas, such as communication, teaching people to use new devices, supporting people with complex behaviours.”
Aside from skills and knowledge, she believes certain bedrock personal qualities are essential for building a successful career in disability support.
“You need to have empathy and you have to be caring. You must be patient and be willing to step back rather than rush to do something for somebody and you must know what it means to empower someone.
“If you’re wondering about disability support work, go and give it a try. Volunteer with an organisation that runs art or exercise groups, or social connection groups. Working with people with disability can lead to a career full of meaning and satisfaction.”
Kelly’s story is one example from the many organisations and individuals dedicated to supporting people with disability in Victoria. Organisations may offer services and work opportunities that differ from those described here.
Jake oversees management of service facilities across Melbourne and works closely with area coordinators to ensure consistent delivery of high quality services.
When Jake started working as a disability support worker, he had no idea he would one day oversee management of six different services across Carnegie, Syndal, Boronia, Mitcham, Lilydale and Ringwood.
Six years on, Jake has built a wealth of skills and experience and has worked his way up to become manager of Day and Lifestyle Options services in Scope’s East Division.
“When I entered the disability sector I didn’t know my current role even existed, or that I could do it. After three years as a support worker, I told my manager I’d like the opportunity to step up. I moved into a team leader role, then became a coordinator managing one service,” Jake says.
After finishing high school Jake wanted to be a teacher’s aide for children with disability in primary schools but going to university was the last thing on his mind.
“I ended up doing my Certificate IV in Disability after a friend who was working in the sector recommended it. After graduating I started working in a small community house before moving on to where I work now.
“I could have started working before graduating but having a qualification behind you is important for getting a job and for progressing your career.”
Jake works Monday to Friday between 8am and 4pm; these are the operating hours of the services he oversees.
“I start my day in the office, making sure service agreements are being signed off, checking if there are any issues that staff need our support with and managing the financial performance of all the services.”
A big part of Jake’s role is spending time at the facilities he is responsible for, engaging with both staff and people who use services to understand their different concerns. It’s a part of the job he particularly enjoys because he gets to build on the personal connections he made in former roles.
“I worked in most of the services I now oversee, so when I became manager, I knew I wanted to maintain my regular contact with the people with disability that use our services and not just focus on staff.”
It’s this personal approach and talent for making connections that has served Jake well over the years and helped him keep ahead of the curve.“I always approach my manager if I have gaps in my knowledge and learning, and there are always short courses or meetings with business partners to learn from. This helped me adapt what I know and how I do things to overcome challenges."
When asked what personal qualities and values he thinks are needed to work in disability, Jake is quick to highlight the benefits of diving in and giving it a try.
“Resilience, patience and being able to self-reflect are very important. But I think it’s equally important for someone considering a career in disability support to get that first experience and ask lots of questions.
“Whether that’s through direct employment or volunteering, finding out and trying it for yourself is the best way to understand the support worker role and what’s needed to do it well.”
Jake’s story is one example from the many organisations and individuals dedicated to supporting people with disability in Victoria. Organisations may offer services and work opportunities that differ from those described here.
Here are some tools and resources developed under Keeping Our Sector Strong, that you might find useful.
Targeting Quality Training
In consultation with the disability sector, advocacy groups and unions, the Department of Education and Training developed additional accredited courses in areas that were not yet addressed by existing disability qualifications.
Below are some examples of the disability-related courses currently available. These courses are ideal for those who need to skill up further in a particular area relevant to their work:
- Supporting People with Complex Support Needs and Complex Physical Needs (22540VIC)
- Providing Support to People with Psychosocial Disability (22532VIC)
- Performing Allied Health Tasks and Supporting People with Disability (22529VIC)
- Culturally Considerate Disability Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (22531VIC)
- Supporting People with Disability to use Medications (22558VIC)
- Identifying, Reporting and Preventing Abuse and/or Grooming of People with Disabilities (22530VIC)
Allied health resources
Information, tools and training resources for allied health workers working in the disability sector.
Tools and guidance to assist allied health professionals to support people with disability and complex support needs.
Information and guidance on the use of the AHA role in the disability sector.
Promoting Best Practice
Access resources to support the NDIS and mainstream service systems to work together across children, youth and families, health, mental health and justice.
Job vacancies in the disability sector
If you are looking for a new challenge or a change in your disability career, right now there are a range of jobs available.
The Jobs Victoria online hub matches jobseekers who are ready to work, with employers who are looking for skilled and talented workers.
Once you register as a jobseeker, you will receive job alerts that match your skills, experience and location.
National Disability Services (NDS) CareCareers
You can also visit the NDS CareCareers web page for more information and to view available jobs.
Reviewed 03 August 2021