Back to Work has provided thousands of Queensland employers with the confidence to hire unemployed jobseekers, changing lives and improving the way they do business.
Husband-and-wife duo Jay and Sandi are passionate about graphic design and committed to providing opportunities for emerging Indigenous professionals.
Jay is a proud descendent of the Ewamian and Western Yalanji people of North Queensland. As a graphic designer and First nations descendent, Jay identified a niche area for providing media that was culturally sensitive, dynamic and engaging for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous peoples and decided to start his own business. With the support of his wife Sandi, the pair opened Smyth Studio in their local country town of Gympie, during the start of the global pandemic. Smyth Studio specialises in branding, design and marketing solutions and is a certified with Supply Nation as an Indigenous-led agency.
One of the hurdles is growing their business was finding a qualified worker and ensuring they could pay award wages. In 2021, through a job agency they found local jobseeker Selena, who had been out of work for eight weeks and identified as having a disability. Jay and Sandi were blown away with Selena’s talent and were not hindered by her disability as they had first-hand experience managing some of the challenges that are face persons with a disability.
Under the Back to Work Program, Selena was an eligible employee to receive up to $11,250 for the business. Jay and Sandi were already sold on Selena’s talents alone, and the support of the Back to Work Incentive payments meant they could hire Selena without the added financial strain on the business. They were able to use the funding to help offset a portion of Selena’s wage and purchase various equipment for the business.
Jay and Sandi said, “honestly, without the Back to Work funding we would have never been able to hire Selena or in fact grow our business during COVID. The funding was our safety net.”
Selena originally started working with Smyth Studio 15 hours per week on a part-time arrangement. After settling into the business, her graphic design and illustration skills were in high demand and she increased her work hours to 20 hours per week. Selena loves graphic design and illustration and has most recently worked on media for Red Frogs Australia.
Five months into Selena’s employment with Smyth Studio, Jay and Sandi accessed Back to Work’s wrap around support and applied for funding under the Small Business Support Pool. Their approved application secured them $2,000 worth of funding in which they purchased a new desktop computer, ergonomic chairs and software specifically for Selena to use within the business. This helped to provide greater flexible working arrangements for Selena to successfully work from home to accommodate her disability.
Jay and Sandi were grateful for the Back to Work program and the support it has provided to their business. They intend to make another application for an incentive payment to expand their 5-strong team when they find the right person for the job.
A family business established in 1988, with a belief that business is built on relationships, Kent Saddlery in Stanthorpe has a strong connection to community. Evidence of one such community connection is the relationship that Josh, Kent Saddlery’s Production Manager, has built with local secondary schools. In 2021 and 2022, Josh delivered the Certificate II in Leather Production to senior students at Stanthorpe State High School, and this is where Josh met Patrick, a Year 11 student at the time, who is now a valuable employee at Kent Saddlery.
Josh said, “We probably couldn’t have hired Pat without the support of the Back to Work Youth Boost payment”. He goes on to explain “Every job that we give Pat has something to do with further training. He works on the smaller jobs to hone his skills, which is good for Patrick and valuable for the team, he is very well utilised”.
Diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Patrick has overcome the many varied challenges of growing up with such a diagnosis. Josh tailored the supports surrounding Patrick which empowered him to take responsibility for his learning and gain the confidence to complete the qualification successfully.
Josh has gone on to embrace the free access to the Back to Work Small Business Short Courses, developing the leadership skills of Foreman Tim, Leading Hand Bryce, and Apprentice Maddison, who are all currently completing the “Effective Workplace Leadership” course.
Maddison recently completed the ‘Communicating effectively with people with disability’ course and has gained the knowledge and understanding of how best to support Patrick and other people with a disability in the workplace.
Josh’s strategic workforce planning, identifying leadership potential and incorporating the use of the Small Business Short Courses, will support workplace relationships, workplace culture and inclusiveness and staff career development for the future growth and stability of the business. The positive impact goes beyond the benefit for the business and the employees, employing disadvantaged jobseekers and empowering them to see their potential to contribute to the workplace creates a ripple effect to their families and the whole community.
Gelatissimo is a locally owned and operated small business in the heart of Townsville, offering award winning gelato, delicious desserts, shakes and coffee. Astrid is the proud owner of the Townsville franchise and is passionate about hiring locals and creating a great workplace for her employees. Astrid is particularly passionate about supporting young people entering the workforce and making their first working experience positive and fulfilling.
Astrid says they have had great success with the Queensland Government’s Back to Work program when hiring both Christina and Sarah. Christina and Sarah both experienced a period of unemployment prior to starting work at Gelatissimo and were both eligible under the Youth Boost Back to Work incentive to receive up to $15,000 each in funding for the business.
Astrid said “Christina and Sarah have been with me for over 17 months now and they are both going so well. Sarah, is just powering through and has built up her confidence so much from when she first started. Sarah started out as more of a back of shop assistant working 8 hours a week, and gradually we have worked together to get her trained on making coffees, serving customers and even opening the shop’. Sarah now works up to 25 hours per week and received a very high score for her customer service in a recent mystery shopper exercise.
Astrid has mentored many young people over the past 13 years and says “you just need to be really patient and honest with young people and don’t be afraid to give them a go. I tell my staff, don’t’ worry if you spill a frappe, I want you to build your confidence, and you’re not going to if you’re nervous about making a mistake”. Astrid says she tells her staff she wants them with her for the long haul and she wants to provide them with secure employment where they can build their confidence and their skills.
Astrid would strongly encourage other small business owners to give young people a go and to feel assured that the Queensland Government’s Back to Work program can support you in doing so.
Browns Plains based construction company, QLand Constructions, provide carpentry services including new house builds and renovations. Company Director Matthew Sweetman said that Back to Work provided him with the confidence and support to employ people who had been out of work for an extended period of time. Both Kurt Dalton and Calem Stewart have commenced in apprenticeships with QLand Constructions and are loving this opportunity.
“Back to Work has enabled me to give the lads extra time, support, and mentoring that is needed when you haven’t been working for a while. It is important to us as a business to give someone a go that may not have been otherwise given an opportunity. Each employee is different and needs different training and mentoring. The Back to Work program funding has given us the room to be able to spend time with them without the financial pressure of taking tradesmen off jobs. We work across different locations and projects, so Kurt and Calem are always learning new skills,” Matthew said.
“They have both come a long way since they started with us. They are a great fit for our business, and we are hoping they will be long-term employees after their apprenticeships are finished.”