This Christmas, the Herald is profiling 12 charities chosen to get a $12,000 grant from Auckland Airport as part of its 12 Days of Christmas giving programme – now in its twelfth year. The $144,000 comes from generous travellers who donate money in globes throughout the airport.

Finishing secondary school is a time of celebration for many teens, but for those with disabilities it's often a time of uncertainty, says Joshua Fuimaono.

The 21-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, recently moved into fulltime paid work as a digital co-ordinator at the Yes Disability Resource Centre in Albany but many of his disabled peers are not so fortunate. "Young people, especially those with disabilities, are often not given a chance by employers," he says.

That's why Yes Disability set up Project Employ, a work transition programme operating out of a purpose-built café in Takapuna from next year. The project receives a $12,000 grant from Auckland Airport as part of its 12 Days of Christmas initiative.

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Trust chair Sue Stanaway says participants will learn the life, and practical, skills needed for mainstream jobs. "Things like how to work on a roster, how to turn up on time, how to present yourself for work, how to put your best foot forward, how to deal with the public and how to deal with objections."

Yes Disability's Joshua Fuimaono gives a presentation at the i-Lead conference. Photo / Supplied
Yes Disability's Joshua Fuimaono gives a presentation at the i-Lead conference. Photo / Supplied

Project Employ will work with employers to bridge students into new roles. Stanaway says the project will fill a gap in the market for young people with disabilities who need a CV and qualification to say they're work capable. "At the moment there's nowhere for them to go and so often they get despondent. Their parents are struggling to work out what to do with them. They fall into unemployment. We want to give them an opportunity to live their best life," she says.

Project Employ creator Sarah Dann-Hoare says the café-based training model has been a success in the UK. "We'll invite local businesses into the café for morning teas to meet with our trainees and give careers day-style presentations," she says.

" Our job coaches will work closely with employers to support them and their staff.

"Once these young adults get jobs and someone values them, they stick with it. They want to work and they're just so proud to be there. And when you talk to business owners, they find it's changed the lives of their employees and customers in a way they hadn't expected."

Yes Disability's Joshua Fuimaono and friends at the i-Lead conference at Wellington in September. Photo / Supplied
Yes Disability's Joshua Fuimaono and friends at the i-Lead conference at Wellington in September. Photo / Supplied

Project Employ is the latest in a suite of programmes offered nationwide by Yes Disability, which works to create connections in the sector. Along with social groups and mentoring, the centre held its first national youth disabilities conference in September. Joshua used his graphic design and multi-media skills to promote the i-Lead conference and website. He says mainstream training institutions often don't know how to accommodate students with disabilities.

"The only person I know to gain a mainstream qualification had cerebral palsy like me. She did a course in hospitality and found it super-difficult. They didn't let her do waiting but her skills in mixology and creating mocktails and cocktails were one of the best they'd ever seen."

Auckland Airport General Manager of Corporate Services Mary-Liz Tuck says "We love the work that Project Employ does to support uniquely abled young people into meaningful paid employment."

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Yesterday: The Kindness Institute