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Category eleven – Best demonstrated leadership in rehabilitation and return to work

Protech was established in 2006 as a technically specialised, customer-focused workforce solutions partner. Ellie, a Protech employee, was involved in a car accident while travelling between sites for a civil construction client. She suffered multiple injuries which resulted in a high amputation of her left leg. Ellie was hospitalised for months where she received intensive rehabilitation, including psychological support to cope with her losses.

Protech’s commitment to Ellie’s return to work was demonstrated by a high level of involvement from the executive team and regular contact with her by phone, text and face-to face catch ups during her rehabilitation.

Once Ellie was ready to return to work Protech looked beyond its own workplace to find suitable work for Ellie. Protech’s general manager approached its client RoadTek to see if it would consider Ellie for a traineeship.

RoadTek recognised Ellie’s potential value for its team and promptly made arrangements to have the office and facilities assessed for wheelchair accessibility and safety. It also committed to commencing a Certificate III in Business traineeship when Ellie is ready for additional work and study hours.

Both organisations keep in regular contact regarding Ellie’s progress, achievements, and areas for improvement. Both Protech and RoadTek showed great leadership to find innovative return to work solutions as well as commitment to diversity, inclusion, and improving individual contributions to their lives and the community.

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Simon Gibson, Regional Manager

I'm Simon Gibson. I'm from Protech and I'm the Regional Manager for Southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales. Protech are a labour hire and workforce management company. We've got 160 internal staff and about 3,500 contractors working in a variety of industries from manufacturing and specialising in construction and technical trades. So, one of our employees Ellie, was involved in a really serious motor vehicle accident a few years ago, was really lucky to survive, suffered some really horrific injuries in terms of losing a leg and losing a lot of her day-to-day function. When Ellie was at a stage of her recovery, where we were talking about what does that next role look like, and how can we get you back into the workforce, we looked to the clients that we work with within Ellie's area, and Protech was one that we knew how to we were really engaged with supporting workers back into suitable duties. So, we engaged with them here in Toowoomba, and were really fortunate that together we could put together a plan for Ellie that would support her return to the workforce. We consistently had better outcomes for the workers when they're engaged in a work. They've got purpose, they've got motivation to get up every day and get involved in something other than their own recovery. We have much better outcomes and the workers will tell us that it's a better experience.

Ellie Dunn, Protech employee

So, Protech was great with supporting me throughout my rehabilitation. They, you know, we're constantly in contact, and I felt connected with that company, even though I wasn't there, which was great. It's very easy to shut away and forget about the world a little bit. So, having everyone around you to support you was the reason I guess I'm here now.

Simon Gibson, Regional Manager

It was really challenging. Ellie was in a site-based role, a blue-collar role where her skills and experience were on the tools day-to-day. And, having to then transfer Ellie's skillset to a white-collar skillset where she's sitting behind a computer and adding value to a company in a different way, was really challenging, and we've had to do a few little unique things to be able to support that.

Ellie Dunn, Protech employee

I was terrible at computers before coming to Protech, and all the girls here have just have made it a really easy transition. They're always willing to teach me new things, which is pretty often.

Simon Gibson, Regional Manager

I think the key to Ellie's success in recovery, in her rehabilitation and return to work was that we've maintained consistent communication with Ellie, whether it's our injury management coordinator and injury management team, our local account managers, even myself coming out, and we've been up to see Ellie in hospital, we've seen her at her house as she's been on that journey, we've continuously worked with her over the years to get her back to this point. It didn't just happen because there was someone else driving in the background. Protech drove that with the support of a huge number of people. I think the key learning here for other businesses is to be engaged with your workers and support them. And, that anything really is possible if you engage and you've got the right team, and are really looking to put the outcome of the worker first.