Brushing up on life skills

Brushing up on life skills

When career advocate Karina Maulen was looking for another way to build relationships with young people in the Transition to Work program, the bare walls of Training Alliance Group Cockburn office provided a ready source of inspiration.

“I told them this was their space as much as mine, so let’s do something to own it,” she says. “Rather than buy artwork, paint me something that represents you and we’ll hang it in here.”

A number of training participants were keen to take up the offer. They made the most of their weekly sessions and came back in their own time to work on their art and work on their career development in the one, inspiring space. The participants welcomed the opportunity to talk through their challenges with Karina and other participants in a social and safe environment

“To be in our program generally means there’s an additional barrier, so I have people with quite big issues to deal with before we can get to the stage of finding them employment,” Karina says.

“If I can find out what motivates them and what’s important to them, then I’m better able to guide them toward what they want to achieve.”

Karina is thrilled with the response, particularly with youth at high risk of dropping out. One young woman battling multiple issues slowly opened up as they talked about what she might paint.

“She remembered her son used to be called the little rattlesnake by her Nan before she passed away, and she said, ‘I could paint a snake that represents my son’,” Karina says.

“So she painted and then she added these little footprints as her way of saying it’s one foot in front of the other towards restoring her connection with her son. She just lit up – she was like a different person.”

Another participant who is struggling with her own challenges is doing a body positivity piece. “I just ask gentle questions while she’s painting and it’s amazing to hear her talk about how she’s going and the positive steps in her journey,” Karina says. “I don’t push but it’s a bit like art therapy, and the walls start to come down.”

With each participant writing a short narrative about their art, Karina hopes that before too long the office walls will be enriched with life and personality. More importantly, the process will give her a much better idea about how best to help participants on their journey to employment.

“It’s a relaxed way of getting to know them – it’s not me sitting at a desk typing notes – and they are really responding and blossoming. The connection is real.”