Microsoft SBAT breaking down barriers

The world of technology, and career opportunities this presents, is an ever-evolving landscape. At the forefront of this new world is Christine Douglas, who is completing Year 12 on a pathway at Wyndham College while undertaking a school-based traineeship at Microsoft. She is also vision impaired, but that isn’t stopping her from reaching for her dreams.

Image: Christine is completing her school-based traineeship in the Microsoft Technology Centre

In her traineeship, facilitated by MEGT, an Apprenticeship Network Provider, Christine is sitting within the Microsoft Technology Centre – an area where large enterprise customers seek hardware and software technology solutions.

“Christine is experiencing what she can be in the future, and not only what she can learn, but also what we can learn about the value we can create for our customers in this space,” says Tim Allen, Skills for Employability Lead, Microsoft.

Christine's responsibilities include observing meetings and presentations and offering her viewpoint regarding how young people with a disability use technology in different ways, in organisations large and small. By adding her perspective on how hardware can be augmented to suit people with disabilities, Christine is helping to forge the future when it comes to adaptive technologies.

“Christine adds so much value to our internal teams by providing her unique view, her unique strengths and unique skill sets, while also adding value to our customer base,” says Tim Allen, Skills for Employability Lead at Microsoft.

Christine speaks highly of her SBAT experience at Microsoft, the skills she’s been learning, and the new opportunities provided to her.

“Microsoft has been so flexible and adaptable to me and my needs, which makes me more than willing to accept any challenge they have thrown at me,” says Christine.

“I’ve learnt new skills in technology and business, as well as how to operate in a workplace and how to manage my time.”

Developing job-ready skills is all part of the school-based apprentices and trainees (SBAT) experience and offers a world of opportunities for employers to help train the next generation.

“We need to look at different ways to find hidden talent, as it's not always something that comes with a degree” adds Marco Millalonco from MEGT. “Employers need to be open, intentional and thoughtful about what this experience means for a young person, as well as their organisation.”

He makes special mention of the excellent work of Kim Butler, Christine’s SBAT Engagement Officer, in securing Christine this opportunity. “Kim has been instrumental to this process – she’s made it so streamlined and opened our eyes to what opportunities lie ahead.”

Increasing their capacity for SBATs is an area that Microsoft hopes it will be able to grow.

“We need to evolve and we want to be involved because there's great students out there that can potentially lead our organisation in the future,” says Tim.

Before starting her traineeship, Christine took part in Imagine Cup Junior – a competition in which students used innovation and technology for problem-solving. Since then she has hit the ground running at Microsoft, even running a peer to peer workshop with students experiencing various levels of disability on how to make Xbox controllers more adaptable.

As part of her SBAT, Christine is completing a Certificate III in Business Services, and knows she wants to pursue a career in technology.

“Christine has big ambitions about what she wants to do and she definitely wants to use technology to help people with disabilities,” says Tim. “At Microsoft, we can provide that platform, that connection, or further employment for that to happen… the world's her oyster.”

And her sights are set on big dreams. Tim recounts how Microsoft's Chief Disability Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie said to Christine, “I want you to take my job one day.” After mulling over this for a few days, Christine’s reply was “Tell Jenny I’m coming for her job.”

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