31 October 2023

Take them in, train them up, send them out: Woden Community Service launches Social Enterprise arm

| James Day
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Group photo of 6 WCS staff

Woden Community Service provides employment and skills for anyone finding it hard to get work. Front row: WCS deputy CEO Blessy Pascual, cafe & catering manager Catherine Morrisey, commercial cleaner Dorji Wangmo. Back row: WCS commercial cleaner Ugyen Bidha, social enterprise project lead Amit Makkar and maintenance & garden coordinator Lhakpa Rinzin. Photo: WCS.

The intractable economy has pushed many industries to the brink, especially with an ongoing shortage of skills. However, Woden Community Service (WCS) sees the current scarcity as an opportunity to give the Territory’s vulnerable youth a better chance at employment that will serve them for the rest of their working lives.

As part of the new Social Enterprise arm of their services, the WCS has pulled together a six-month program that provides paid employment and on-the-job training for anyone struggling to find their way into the job market.

For those willing to work, the initiative already has work in cleaning and catering services until next month, when they begin their gardening operation.

READ MORE Heartbeat Cafe gives a leg up to young trainees and a kickstart to the community in Whitlam

Leading the charge for this arm of the WCS is project lead Amit Makkar, who has 20 years of experience managing long-term operations such as this.

While the program is targeting a younger and more vulnerable demographic of 17 to 45 years of age, Mr Makkar says, “There’s no set range. Even if someone is not a WCS program participant, they are welcome, as long as they’re willing to work and struggling to get jobs.

“We are looking for as many people as possible in our capacity right now. Going forward, we plan to scale up and bring in more vulnerable participants for training and paid employment.

“The goal is to make them a confident, marketable professional and give them avenues for growth before we send them out into the world.”

“In Australia, we’re facing a skills shortage which, as a responsible people, we should address,” says Amit Makkar, Project Lead of Woden Community Services Social Enterprise. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The program’s cleaning service currently operates across all six WCS facilities, with talks underway to expand into government agencies and spaces in private industry. Over the past year, their catering service has been running the Heartbeat Café in Whitlam, which has already made a great deal of progress towards its ongoing goal.

“In our English as a second language program, we found a young migrant who came to Australia a few years ago but struggled to get a job. Within six months of joining the hospitality program, she’s been employed by the Whitlam café, which is a great achievement”, Mr Makkar says.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business, but a business for good. We have a social cause attached to it, and we want to be a skill enabler. We want to create paid employment and be a mentor for our participants.”

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The Social Enterprise team hopes to maximise their reach so they can continue building on the services offered, with a few ideas already in the works. However, at the moment, they’re hoping to enrol as many people as possible and develop the program’s model to give participants the best chance at securing employment.

“Everyone is working hard here in Australia, but what makes us different is that we’re doing something for our community and giving back,” Mr Makkar says.

“It’s the kind of job that, after a long day, lets you sleep well.”

For more information, visit Woden Community Service.

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