||John McAndrew with Matthew Sharp - Caterlink Project Manager.
John McAndrew and Caterlink
"It's been fantastic. You step back and think - "Is it a community service that you feel grateful for?" But it's not. It's the fulfillment of being able to give an individual an opportunity to contribute or have ownership of something."
This is how Caterlink Project Manager Matthew Sharp describes the success of his company's decision to employ John McAndrew. The 31 year old was the first person with a disability to be employed by Caterlink.
Still, Matthew Sharp is quick to reinforce that John's appointment was not one of benevolence, rather it addressed a legitimate need within the company.
"When you're employing someone in a position, you need to work out firstly, what's in it for the business and secondly, what's in it for the individual," he explains.
Caterlink is one of the success stories of WA's economic boom. A multi-million dollar, privately-owned company, it supplies and fabricates commercial kitchen equipment. Clients include BHP, Rio Tinto, the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Crown Perth - even IKEA boasts Caterlink kitchens.
Not surprisingly, all that prosperity has also seen an expansion in the company's workforce - a 30% increase over the past 12 months.
The company needed someone to maintain the cleanliness of the showroom that's on display to customers, as well as running other simple errands. Previously, university students had been employed but none stayed long - and that turnover was a disruption in a company with a proven history of retaining staff.
Someone suggested to management that employing a person with a disability might be a good "fit".
"The support for the idea was through the roof - it was amazing, the feedback!" says Matthew Sharp "We decided after the management meeting that we would address it with the entire team and the positive feedback from that was fantastic, so we knew from a team perspective we were bang on the money with what we were trying to achieve."
EDGE recommended John McAndrew. The rest, as they say, is history.
Matthew Sharp says he'd recommend other companies also look "outside the box".
"You would think there'd be a lot of businesses out there that'd be able to take advantage of these opportunities," he told INSIDE EDGE.
Now, John McAndrew works six hours a day, three days a week at Caterlink.
He enjoys his time working in the factory, polishing up the stainless steel and putting equipment together.
"Mostly, I just like the people, they're friendly," he says.
John's parents, with whom he still lives in Bateman, are also very pleased with the success of his appointment.
"John's always liked working," says Betty McAndrew, "to him, it's independence, it's contentment. You don't need to get him up in the morning, John's up and he bounces out the door - he'd always rather be half an hour early, than five minutes late!"
Mrs McAndrew describes Caterlink as "just like one big happy family!"
While there were government benefits that flowed from employing John, Matthew Sharp says they were never an incentive for this company.
"It was about finding the right person for the role," he says "The fact that we've employed somebody who's happy being here, has every intention of sticking around, is working really well for us."
The other plus - the knowledge that Caterlink has given someone who deserves it, a go.
"At the end of the day everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to give somebody that opportunity to succeed and have wins and be independent. I think that's the most rewarding aspect of it" says Matthew Sharp.