Petene Hughes was struck by Katelyn’s enthusiasm and eagerness when she interviewed her for a vacant apprentice hairdresser role in her busy salon, Zimbuca, in Maroochydore. But there was something else about the teenager that resonated with Petene.

“I saw myself in her. She reminded me of myself. I had always struggled with aspects of schooling and learning. But I believe that everyone deserves an opportunity, I offered her the job, and I have not been disappointed,” she said.

“Katelyn needs additional help with aspects of her TAFE course, particularly book keeping and comprehension. We had some initial support for her but without any notice that support disappeared.”

Pregnant with her first child, Petene found herself playing the role of big sister, patiently working with Katelyn to help her with her studies as well as completing the practical modules for the course.

It was exhausting but she enjoyed seeing the progress and growth that Katelyn was making. However she realized she could not continue without finding external, additional support for Katelyn, particularly with the imminent birth of the baby.

Enter Heath Doman, employment consultant with new local disability services provider, Joblife.

“He has been nothing short of amazing. He organized a teacher’s aide for Katelyn, he is helping her to get her licence and he is getting her to TAFE so she can attend classes,” Petene said.

“He keeps me up to date with what is happening and we are all working as team, along with Katelyn’s family, to help and support her through her apprenticeship.

“We love having her here. She is a vibrant, happy young woman who is committed to becoming a hairdresser.

“And I am living proof that even if you struggle academically you can still be successful.”

Support for Katelyn has been provided through an Australian Government initiative, Work Assist. This service helps people stay in work if they risk losing their job through illness, injury or disability.

“I’ve been in business for six years and had no idea that this service was available. It is a great resource for business owners who want to employ someone who is great at their job but needs some help to stay there.”