The Willing and Able Mentoring Program

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If you’re a young person with a disability, either looking for a job or studying at university or TAFE, the Willing and Able Mentoring (WAM) Program could be for you. WAM connects job seekers and students with mentors in their field of interest. Mentors and mentees meet regularly to talk about career planning, preparing for job interviews, developing communication skills, and issues relating to disclosure of disability in the workplace.

You get to talk about the sort of job you want, ask questions about the industry you’re interested in working in and learn how to make the transition from university or TAFE to the workforce.

As a WAM mentee you have about eight meetings with your mentor, for one or two hours each. As mentee Joseph explains, "You can learn from their experiences, clarify your career aspirations and develop your networking skills."

Joseph, a student at the University of Melbourne, signed up for a mentor because he wanted to find out more about the role of marketing in the public sector. Having a mentor helped Joseph to plan a career path and get an idea of what to expect when starting out in the workforce as well as later in his career. Chatting to employees at the Melbourne Show’s Government Expo was a definite highlight of his mentee experience.

"My mentor arranged mock interviews with people in HR. I could ask questions and know that my answers were coming from somebody who knew their job," said Joseph. "We also discussed the implications of my disability in the workplace, and the arrangements that could be effected to accommodate my needs."

Joseph learned a lot from his mentor Helen who is Marketing Manager at Information Victoria. Helen became a WAM mentor because she believes the one-on-one approach is a really healthy and productive way to learn.

"When you personalise the program, the mentee gets so much more out of it," said Helen. She makes the point that with so much information available on the internet, the only thing left to be taught is personal experience - mentoring is a chance for young people to tap into this. Having a mentor, as Helen explains, is also a great way for young people to establish a network and make contact with people who can help them in the future.

You can be part of WAM if you have a disability dependent on funding support. The program can help you to grow your network and make the move from study to work and a career. As Helen says: "Anything that enables you to get a head start has to be a good thing!"

The WAM Program was started by Deakin University and the University of Melbourne in 2000 and is open to young people with disabilities across Victoria. To find out more about the WAM Program, go to the Graduate Careers website (new window).