Before joining Big Fat Smile, Thomas had tried age care and hair dressing, but babysitting for family and friends had sparked an interest in working with children. The fee-free Big Fat Smile Pre-Employment Program, delivered in collaboration with ECTARC, The Department of Education and the Illawarra YES program gave him the skills and confidence to launch his career into the Early Childhood Education and Care sector.
During the five-week program, Thomas completed three units in Workplace Health and Safety, Food Safety and First Aid. The program also offers work experience in a Big Fat Smile service one day per week. Upon completion, the participants have and opportunity to secure a full-time, part-time or casual employment with Big Fat Smile. This is a great opportunity to explore and get a head-start in a career in early childhood education.
Following the pre-employment program, Thomas was offered a full time Traineeship at Bulli Community Preschool 0-5. He found the process of transitioning from the pre-employment program to paid employment with Big Fat Smile seamless:
‘The program gave me a foot in the door with Big Fat Smile, which I feel helped me immensely. I was offered an interview for a traineeship and 15 minutes after the interview I got a call back.’
Now, six months later, Thomas is well established in his trainee role. He says the pre-employment program has helped him greatly in understanding the sector and settling into his role at the service:
‘The units in the program helped me understand what’s expected in my role. I have also gained credit transfers for the subjects I completed in the program, which helps lighten the study load in my traineeship.’
Thomas explains there is a lot to smile about when you’re binging fun, laughter and play to each day. The happy, healthy relationships he has formed with children and families has been the best perk of the job so far:
‘The first time I walked into Bulli Community Preschool a child came up to me and told me I looked “like an old lady with a moustache”, today the same child came up to me and told me that he’d be sad that he won’t see me anymore once he goes to big school. I often get positive feedback from parents about how I educate and care for their children. Every day there are little moments of joy, like when a child gives you a drawing they’re so proud of. It’s an amazing feeling and I truly love that I can have an impact on these young people’s lives.’
By September 2023, Thomas would have completed his Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care. Upon finishing his traineeship, he will have the opportunity to further his learning by completing a Diploma traineeship or take advantage of many other exciting internal opportunities at Big Fat Smile. And for his long-term plan, Thomas is clear:
‘In five years’ time, I hope to still be working with Big Fat Smile and being on a journey to becoming a psychologist.’
The next Big Fat Smile pre-employment program, in collaboration with ECTARC, Kiama Community College, the Illawarra YES program and the Department of Education is commencing Tuesday, 4 October. If you or someone you know is interested in launching their career working in Early Childhood Education and Care or Out of School Hours Care, please register your interest here.