When physical health conditions began affecting his ability to do his job, experienced delivery driver Phillip Cole thought it might be the end of his working life. But at 61, he wasn’t ready to hang up his boots, and with support from VERTO, he is back doing what he loves, working as a delivery driver for Orange-based bakery, Early Rise.
In 2019, Mr Cole was working as a heavy rigid truck driver when health conditions, including hyperthyroidism and arthritis, put a stop to his career.
“I was moving pallets weighing up to 1200kg, which was no longer tenable with my health conditions. But I had been doing that work since I was 17, so I wasn’t sure what else I could do. I felt like it was the end of my time in the workforce,” he said.
In a bid to continue working, Mr Cole went to see a local Orange employment agency, but he didn’t get the answer he was hoping for.
“Essentially, they told me to go back to Centrelink and say I couldn’t work anymore. But it wasn’t what I wanted and when I told Centrelink that, they referred me to VERTO,” he said. The difference was immediately apparent to Mr Cole.
“(VERTO Consultant) Geoff actually listened to what I wanted and didn’t just turn me away as a hopeless case as the other lot had,” he said.
“Straightaway, he got me into courses and started talking to my doctors to understand what was possible for me. VERTO gave me hope that I could work and bring in an income again.”
Mr Cole worked with VERTO Consultants Geoff Buss and Brooke McDonald to build confidence and prepare for his return to work. Simultaneously, his doctors made progress in managing his health conditions.
Initially, he was exploring options for a career change, looking for retail work that wasn’t as physically demanding. He also explored disability care, with VERTO putting him on a course to develop new skills.
But then, the perfect opportunity presented itself — a casual delivery position with local bakery, Early Rise.
“I’ve always had positions with an early start. I’m used to seeing the moon and comfortable driving trucks through fog, rain, whatever. It was the heavy lifting I could no longer do, so moving bread was just about perfect,” he said.
In the job since late 2021, Mr Cole has enjoyed returning to the workforce. “It’s important to me to earn an income, and it’s great that I can do it in a job I know and enjoy,” he said.
With support from his doctors, he is managing his health conditions and is confident that he will continue in the role for some time to come.
VERTO Consultant Geoff said: “Our role as an employment services provider is to support people like Phillip to achieve their goals, and it’s wonderful to see him so positive about the future now,” he said.
“We’re confident Phillip will continue at Early Rise, and the employer feels the same way.”
VERTO CEO Ron Maxwell said it’s a fantastic outcome and proof the VERTO team will go the extra mile to assist their clients.
“It was clear that Phillip felt disheartened and wasn’t ready to finish his career when VERTO first saw him in 2020,” he said.
“No one should ever feel like that, and I’m proud the VERTO team were able to assist Phillip get back to doing something he loves.”
Mr Cole said it’s important for others in the same position to understand that there are options out there and help is available.
“VERTO helped me find my feet again, so a diagnosis doesn’t have to be the end of the road,” he said.
For more information about VERTO’s range of life-changing employment services, visit www.verto.org.au or phone 1300 487 386.