One of the best ways to excel at your job is to start from the bottom and work your way up. Chris Blackwell, Team Assistant with SSI Employment Services, knows this very well. He can quickly identify the uncertainty and tiredness on the face of job-seekers the first day they arrive at the Campsie warehouse where SSI Jobactive operates some of its Work for the Dole (WFD) programs. Only six months ago, he was one of them.
“I started with the SSI Work for the Dole program in August last year,” Mr Blackwell said. “I began in the Community Kitchen SSI runs at Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville, but soon they started giving me experience with the other program, Humble Creatives, and that is how I got here.”
His positive and hard-working attitude didn’t go unnoticed by the program managers. Once Mr Blackwell finished his compulsory hours of Work for the Dole, one of his supervisors encouraged him to interview for an upcoming position with the program.
Terry Wilson, SSI Employment Services Manager, said Mr Blackwell came to work every day on time and with a great attitude.
“When the program started growing and we opened a team assistant position, we all thought Chris would make a perfect fit,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr Blackwell attributes his fate to the personal connection he felt with the SSI program and its staff, who encouraged him to attend the sessions regularly.
“The SSI Work for the Dole programs are not boring at all; the organisers and staff are engaging, and I looked forward to going back every time, which was key in facilitating my return to the workforce.”
Mr Blackwell’s position with Humble Creatives started in December 2015 and he has two key responsibilities. On the one hand, he does market research to explore new products that would provide new skills for job seekers as well as being suitable for sale for the social enterprise.
On the other hand, he supervises the performance of job-seekers, making sure they arrive on time, sign their timesheet, and learn new skills each day. This also involves supporting job-seekers in pursuing their professional goals and finding something related to their interests.
“The challenging part is making sure everyone is occupied with something to do and involved in the activity of the day,” he said.
But Mr Blackwell remembers the feeling of pride he felt when he helped one a long-term unemployed job-seeker undertaking SSI’s Work for the Dole program to find a job as a concierge in a city hotel.
“He had been unemployed for a long time and he wasn’t enjoying life,” Mr Blackwell said. “I understood how he felt, because I had also been there.”
“Having been a job seeker helps me in the sense that I can relate to a lot of it what the Work for the Dole participants have been going through”.