Youth Employment Services – How students with disabilities can make a successful transition from school to work

18th October, 2022

Teenagers with disabilities and their families may be wondering what the future holds as they approach the end of their schooling. Barkuma’s Transition Program is an independent youth employment service designed to assist final-year students to make the smooth transition from school to future pathways.

Students participate one day per week over 12 months, undertaking structured learning, skill development, accredited training and work placement opportunities.

Rebecca Steppat, Operations Manager for Barkuma’s Transition Programs, explains, “We want people with disabilities to have a choice and control over their employment pathways, and the Transition Program is one option for helping young people achieve that.”

In Terms 1 and 2, students build practical employment skills and career development at Barkuma’s South Tce site. In Term 3, they commence accredited training through TafeSA or Private RTOs in courses such as Construction or Hospitality.

In the final Term, students complete their vocational qualification, gaining credit towards SACE, and participate in work experience.

After a graduation ceremony in November, students are then supported to transition to an Employment Pathway of their choice. This could either be School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) or Disability Employment Services (DES), where they are provided with assistance beyond school to prepare for and seek employment.

The program is a Youth Employment Service, run by a team of friendly and dedicated staff.  Vanessa Gordon, the Program Coordinator for the Transition Program, says “I really enjoy working with the youth and seeing the change the program can make. But it’s not me making the change, it’s them – it’s their effort.”

Former Transition Program participants Alex and Ben have made the successful leap from schooling to employment.

After completing the Transition Program, Alex developed further skills through School Leaver Employment Supports (SLES) and found open employment through Barkuma’s Disability Support Service (DES).

For Alex’s mum, Angela, the impact has been wonderful, “Oh gosh!  He has gained confidence and independence. He gets himself around everywhere and takes himself to town go shopping.”

Ben’s experience with the Transition Program saw him move into a volunteer role at a local charity store.  It was there that he discovered his true passion; “ I realised that I have the skills to help older people.”

With the support of his key worker, Gavin, Ben undertook an aged care traineeship through DES.  He now works five days a week and loves his job.

“I couldn’t really ask for a better work team … the staff are from different cultures. So it’s amazing to know and learn about different cultures.”

Although Government funding for this program ceased in 2019, Barkuma continues to self-fund this program to offer another transition choice to schools and students, and continue the positive outcomes.

Barkuma’s Transition Program is open to school students who have a developmental disability, are 16 years or order, have the capacity and desire to work in open employment in the future, and are willing to access transport independently

To find out more, contact the Transition Program Team on 8414 7100 or email