Shared mission at the heart of Toowoomba cafe’s success

By Emily Toxward

Employing people with a disability has made the world of difference to Toowoomba’s Another Life Coffee and Wares.

Cafe manager Bec Mason says the staffing decision – supported by UnitingCare – has opened up new and more efficient ways of doing things, as well as securing the right people for her team, allowing her business to thrive.

“As a small business manager, finding the right staff is crucial, and working with UnitingCare has allowed me to get exactly what I needed in a timely manner,” Bec says. But the biggest benefit of employing people with disabilities is that they often have a way of doing things differently.

“Sometimes they come up with the best way to do things in the workplace because while we may only see one way, they might offer up four or five more efficient ways to do things,” Bec says.

Another Life provides on-the-job training

As well as serving up great coffee and a range of wholesome treats, Another Life is dedicated to giving people with a disability on-the-job training and providing an inclusive place for the community to gather.

This mission has been underpinned by support from UnitingCare’s Employment Services, whose consultants help people find paid work, get work experience or learn new skills that will help them get a part-time or full-time job.

Bec was approached by UnitingCare with job seekers who were a good fit for Another Life, and following an interview and trial process, she took on Shelley, then Samuel and later Neil. “Importantly, UnitingCare consultants work closely alongside each of our team on the job until their confidence, skill level and independence grow,” she says.

Once placed, the consultants continue to provide workplace support for clients and business owners as required.

Consultant Sam Ryan works so closely with Bec that some might say she is part of the furniture.

“I’m there to provide whatever help and support my clients need – for example, if they want to further their qualifications or negotiate with Bec on certain things,” Sam says.

“The best part of my job is watching people with a disability realise their potential and feel as though they are valued in society.”

Bec says she has derived immense satisfaction from working with people with disabilities, bringing their work skills up and allowing them to reach their goals.

“It’s a challenge but it’s absolutely rewarding to see them meet their goals and you can’t get that feeling anywhere else,” she says.

“And while we’d like to keep every staff member, that’s not our goal here. We want to see them continue to grow in their careers and in other part and full-time jobs and we’re proud to be able to give them their start.”

How UnitingCare Employment Services supports employers

UnitingCare Employment Services manager Corinne McPhee says her team offers tailored support for businesses and focuses on helping job seekers become more employable by helping them to overcome any barriers.

Consultants focus on helping their clients identify their strengths and work to get them employed in positions where they’ll thrive and be supported.

“For businesses, we work hard to understand their current and future staffing needs and then look at the people we have on our books with those skill sets,” Corinne says.

“We work with employers on onboarding processes and can even access funds to make workplace modifications if necessary,” she says.

For Another Life, that support is invaluable.

“With the support UnitingCare provides us as a small business, we’ve been able to grow and keep employing more staff,” Bec says.

“Nothing is too hard for them and they will always step in and assist if we need them to. The everyday support they offer both us and their clients is incredible.”

Find out more about UnitingCare Employment Services.