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Graduated from school – what now?

Choosing a profession is challenging for young people in wheelchairs. A year of perspectives may be helpful to get more clarity

Choosing a profession is challenging for young people in wheelchairs. A year of perspectives may be helpful to get more clarity

Moving abroad on your own, leaving friends and family behind, immersing into a different language region – and coping with job and daily life there. What is an adventure for all young people is a double challenge for people in wheelchairs: accepting the challenge and at the same time setting up the necessary infrastructure and support from scratch.

Quadriplegic Jamie Curti accepted this challenge. Since October 2022, he has been completing the practical part of his apprenticeship near Bulle in the canton of Freiburg. There his main task is to write posts for the social media channels of GBY AG. “The company has developed the special Go-Tryke which activates the entire body and stimulates the circulation”, explains the 18-year-old. Through this training, he himself, for example, was able to minimize spasticity.

His commitment there will be for six months; a combination of working and studying. His practical training hours equate to 50 % of the full-time training. Furthermore he goes to school once per week to improve his French: “Young people from all over German-speaking Switzerland meet there, primarily those who stay in Romandie as au pair.”

Jamie Curti sitting at his desk, a laptop open in front of him, and himself smiling at the camera.

During his internship, Jamie Curti looks after his employer’s social media channels, creates posts and publishes them online.

How will things work out with his apprenticeship company?

Jamie was supposed to start his apprenticeship to become a catering professional. But then he had a skiing accident – and consequently suffered from complete quadriplegia. “It was a precondition for my apprenticeship that I improve my French”, he explains. He is now catching up on that.

But despite quadriplegia: His apprenticeship employer – the Hotel “Baur au Lac” in Zurich – will be Jamie’s new employer. There he will complete the second part of his practical training starting in April 2023 and will then make plans for the future with the responsible individuals. One option could be an apprenticeship in commerce or as hotel communication professional – “either starting this summer or, if I need a longer adjustment period, one year later.”

“I was very excited to do an internship in Romandie – but I also asked myself how I would manage without family and friends.”

Jamie Curti, quadriplegic

Reorganizing daily life

Every morning the Spitex supports the young man when getting up and ready as well as with unpacking his travel bag – because Jamie spends the weekends in his ParaWG in Schenkon, LU. He manages the drive in his own car and also the daily commute to work.“ Organizing the necessary support was quite cumbersome – but now everything works very well.”

At the beginning of his internship Jamie lived in the house of Nicole Niquille, the former mountain guide who, since an accident, is dependent on a wheelchair herself. “The environment there was ideal for me.» However, the vacation apartment was only available for three months. Since New Year’s, he has been living in a room of a married couple’s home – the search for accommodation on Facebook drew a lot of attention and was shared 770 times.

To be able to cope in this new environment as quickly as possible, a friend accompanied Jamie to Romandie. “He helped me get groceries and find my way around”, he explains. Furthermore especially ParaWork supported him in his job search and ParaHelp in getting specialized care for him.

Portrait photo of Jamie outside in front of a meadow; buildings can be seen in the background.

Jamie is grateful that his friend accompanied him to Romandie at the beginning.

Searching for professional perspectives

For young people with disabilities, the mandatory school attendance is often challenging and plans for the future hardly take shape. “In a so-called year of perspectives, young people can take the time to sort their professional perspectives”, says Christian Fleischlin, coach for job-oriented integration at ParaWork.

This requires a detailed assessment of the situation and location determination. They are evaluated together with the young people, their parents and the disability insurance – with the goal to steer the next steps toward a sustainable labor market integration. If required, also the housing and therapy situation is evaluated and organized together.

“My tip? Be motivated and be confident! Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Jamie Curti

Jamie riding a Go-Tryke, a specialized bike on three wheels on a narrow road.

Testing bikes, learning French, gathering experience: Jamie Curti appreciates and seizes the opportunity that presents itself.

What experiences did you make far away from home?

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