Finding a great job is almost impossible when you don’t know what you want to do! The Opportunity Hub program supports students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent as they leave high school and embark on their future. To celebrate National Reconciliation Week, we sat down with Opp Hub participant Ethan Ryan to chat about the program and his fabulous new career.
It’s hard to get a spare minute to chat to 18-year-old Ethan Ryan – he’s working five days a week, doing an internship on day six, and working on his own business on day seven!
“It’s my own clothing line of men’s streetwear, called Hemmes,” he says with a grin. “I’ve got my product samples; all the stock is on its way. I’ve already made a website and set up social media pages, ready to go live once the stock arrives and I organise a photoshoot.”
The ex-Ambarvale High School student has been in full time employment since graduating year 12 last October, with the highly renowned AccorHotels group. Ethan is based at the William Inglis property in Warwick Farm: ‘a boutique equine-themed 5-star hotel… celebrating a passion for equine culture and heartfelt hospitality for generations in the making’.
Working 9 to 5
First starting as a Guest Services Administrator, Ethan was so successful that he was promoted to Head Porter/Concierge after his three-month probationary period had ended. Now he’s tasked with making sure that VIP guests are well-attended, which involves anything from organising valet parking to keeping track of dietary requirements.
On his day off he trains with the hotel’s finance department to learn more about that side of the business. “It’s basically an unpaid internship,” says Ethan. “I don’t mind because it’s good practice for me and something I can put on my resume. You can’t put a price on this experience.”
Ethan is planning to put his finance skills to good use in the near future, by commencing an online Diploma of Accounting through TAFE Digital. He’d need to devote at least 16 hours of study per week to complete the course in two years, a commitment which doesn’t faze him in the slightest. “You can always make time,” he states. “If we’re not too busy at work I can fit in an hour or two, or study after work.”
Planning a career
To observe him now, you’d be surprised to learn that Ethan regularly didn’t turn up to school and had no idea what career he wanted. It took months of counselling, brainstorming and research with his Opportunity Hub Advisor Jenny Schultz to set him on the right track.
Although he’d been enrolled in the program since year 8, Ethan didn’t pay it much attention until Jenny arrived on the scene. “She kept at me, kept telling me to apply for this or that, and together we explored a lot,” says Ethan. “She was always there supporting me.”
Jenny was with another youth program for 12 months, Links to Learning, when a vacancy arose in Opportunity Hub and she transferred across. “I liked the idea of this program,” she explains. “It’s the continuation that I’m drawn to. With Opp Hub I can follow my students through major upheavals and provide a consistent level of support.”
For as long as Ethan can remember he wanted to be a surgeon. His little brother has a medical condition which meant lots of trips to the hospital. He and Jenny explored a medical career as a possibility but came to the realisation that it wasn’t for him. “I didn’t want to spend 8 years at uni!” he laughs.
“We’d meet once a week so I could support him intensively,” says Jenny. “He had to make a decision quick and needed that level of support.” Aside from medicine the duo also looked at law, real estate, accounting, and countless other ideas before landing on the hotel industry.
Making a decision
“I actually got a phone call from Accor offering me an interview, and I didn’t even remember applying for it!” Ethan laughs. “Turns out Jenny applied on my behalf.”
“We applied for so many things because Ethan was so keen to get into employment, and I would support him by sending his resume off too,” Jenny explains.
Ethan got lots of positive replies to his applications, even landing an offer from the Reserve Bank of Australia. He was all set to take it but went to his interview with Accor. “My interviewer was amazing, the first thing she said to me was ‘I’m sorry, I have pinkeye, don’t look at my eye’. I felt pretty comfortable!” he grins.
Eventually the hotel job won over the Reserve Bank because of Ethan’s love of customer service. And it’s certainly paid off.
Recently, Ethan was thrilled to find a positive public review from a customer. “She was in the middle of getting married and was unhappy with one of our staff members, so I went in and defused the situation,” he recalls. “I upgraded her to a nicer room with a better view, and organised for her to receive a complimentary fruit platter. It’s the small stuff that sweetens the whole experience! Her review stated that I’d helped make her wedding wonderful.”
“This job has been great for Ethan,” says Jenny. “He’s grown so much, and been really successful which has boosted his confidence.”
Reflecting on Opportunity Hub
“My attendance was shocking,” Ethan admits. “During school it dragged me down a lot. But Jenny helped me and it shot up about 80%. My grades got better too.
“I didn’t put much effort into certain things before, but as I started to I saw results. Everything improved once Jenny helped me realise I needed to go to school to improve my grades, and have a good report to show to future employers.
“Jenny’s the reason I have the job I do now; she’s the reason I’ve had so many opportunities come my way. I wouldn’t be where I am now without her. Our relationship has gotten better and better and better. She’s open to anything, there’s no judgement.
“I would definitely recommend Opportunity Hub to other students. If you don’t know what you want to do and how to find out it’s perfect. I’ve made so many connections through it.”
Ethan’s involvement with Opportunity Hub will continue for at least 12 months after finding employment. “We want to know if he’s happy and successful,” Jenny explains. “That’s the part I like most about Opp Hub, we can follow through. We really help them find their way in the adult world.”
About Opportunity Hub
Opportunity Hub provides students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent with the skills, confidence and support to successfully transition from secondary school into further education or employment.
“It’s not just focused on careers, it’s about the whole student,” Jenny explains. “If they’re having problems we look at ways to help, perhaps refer them to other community groups. Whatever they need we help with, because if they’re not happy the career planning is a waste of time. Student welfare comes before careers, and every student we work with has different needs.”
To find out more phone 1300 232 663 or fill out the online enquiry form.