Leiry, who prefers to be known by his nickname, had just graduated with a Certificate II in Automotive from Gordon TAFE and was all set to begin his new life as an apprentice when coronavirus (COVID-19) struck.
Almost overnight, companies were no longer taking on apprentices and his work prospects turned from bright — to bleak.
'I felt useless, unwanted, that no-one cared,' the 20-year-old says.
Struggling to cope, he reached out on Facebook. His Gordon TAFE teacher, Ken Petzierides, saw the post.
Within a week, Leiry's work prospects cranked into life again.
Ken, also a volunteer at Cloverdale Community Centre, a Learn Local provider in Corio, had started up a lawnmower repair program at the Centre in May to help people just like Leiry.
Participants repair lawnmowers that are then sold or donated to local residents and organisations.
Ken says his idea to set up the program, Shoulder to Shoulder, was embraced by Centre manager Liz Bonner. Demand from male and female TAFE students and graduates was high and the program quickly went from running twice a week to every day.
After joining the program, Leiry says his quality of life improved 'tremendously'.
'I don't exactly know where I'd be without Cloverdale at the moment,' he says. 'I'd be in my room alone, wasting my days again.'
In recognition of his leadership skills, and support of others in the program, Leiry was appointed service manager at Cloverdale in early July.
Ken says the Learn Local and TAFE partnership made it possible for Shoulder to Shoulder to happen.
'My involvement in this initiative has been rewarded by witnessing the change of mental state in all participants, along with the opportunity to create the missing pathways necessary to support our most vulnerable,' he says.
'The program fills a void for adult learners and provides direction, support and confidence during this very difficult time.'
Leiry says he wants his story to carry some hope for anyone struggling with unemployment.
'I'd recommend reaching out to people rather than sitting in your own head,' he says.
'Whether it be a friend or just someone you can confide in, it doesn't matter.'
'Speak out and pursue something.'
Support for retrenched apprentices and trainees
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in a sharp reduction in apprenticeship and traineeship employment, which is predicted to lead to a large and growing pool of displaced apprentices and trainees.
The Apprenticeship Employment Network (AEN) is working with the Department to establish a Victorian register for retrenched apprentices and trainees, supported by staff to provide job matching and other assistance.
Apprentices and trainees who have lost their employment are encouraged to register with the Retrenched Apprentices and Trainees Program
How Learn Local can help you
There are over 270 Learn Local providers across Victoria that offer a variety of short courses that help adults develop the core skills they need for study, work and life.
If you have lost your job or are not working at your full potential due to coronavirus (COVID-19), the Learn Local sector may be able to help you to gain the core skills you need to get back into the workforce or change jobs.
To enrol in a course or find more information, visit the Learn Local or TAFE websites.