The Big Kid of Roseville

Jessica is still a kid at heart.

And, that is something that’s played a big role in her flourishing childcare career with Explore & Develop in Sydney. This is her story…
“I’ve always been a big kid at heart,” grins Jessica Sward, 26, who lives with a learning disability and has been supported by Omnia Inclusive since 2017.
Engaged to be married next March, Jessica held several childcare positions before landing her dream job at Explore & Develop Roseville on Sydney’s leafy north shore. These days she’s a permanent member of the team and, on any given day, can find herself caring for up to 12 children, aged one and two.
“I just love it here!” she says. “Helping the children grow, teaching them new things. I love singing with them. I love reading books. Just seeing them smiling and giggling. If I’m being silly, they’re always laughing at me and it’s priceless. I definitely feel like a big kid myself. It’s my perfect job!”
Jessica explains every day is different with its own challenges and rewards. But some moments are more satisfying than others. “The most rewarding thing is when the parents say to me, ‘I think my child loves you’ – it’s amazing to know you’re doing something right. It’s a nice, nice feeling.”
"Jessica's biggest fan"
As much as the children love her, Jessica’s biggest fan is undoubtedly her boss, Chantal Donohoe. “Jessica just brings so much to the Explore & Develop team,” reflects Chantal. “When we first met, I had a strong sense she would be the right person to work with us. She has that soft, gentle touch, you can see she just genuinely loves the children.”
“It’s also great to have a variety of team members,” Chantal continues. “Some people like to be really busy in the classroom, while others are happy to just sit with the children who need that extra closeness, safety and security – Jessica really brings that to the team. She’s very kind and patient.”
It’s coming up to a year since Jessica first started at Explore & Develop and she continues to go from strength to strength. “She’s just slotted in so well and adds so much value,” Chantal says. “We really see Jessica now as a senior person in the room, so when the families come in, they’re happy to go straight up to her and talk to her. The other team members also look to her for guidance on the routines. She’s become a real leader. I’m so proud of her.”
The feeling is, clearly, mutual with Jessica quick to thank Chantal, whom she sees far more as a mentor than merely her boss. “She’s just been so supportive and understanding of me,” says Jessica. “Chantal gives me opportunities to grow, she listens to my ideas and I’m always able to explore them further so the children can learn different things.”
Support at every step
Another part of Jessica’s journey has been the ongoing personal support and encouragement she receives from her Omnia Inclusive Career Consultant, Sonia. “Whenever I need her, Sonia comes out (to Explore & Develop), usually once a month,” says Jessica. “I can always call her if I’m struggling a bit or I don’t understand something, it’s nice to know she’s there for me.”
As Omnia Inclusive Regional Manager, Kate Fraser, explains, one of the most important ways Sonia has been able to support Jessica is by helping her settle into a role – and workplace team – that perfectly suits both her passion for childcare, but also her needs.
“Seeing Jessica do so well at Explore & Develop really warms our heart,” says Kate. “She’s flourishing and it’s a great example of why finding the right job is such a big part of our job matching process. We spend a lot of time identifying employers and opportunities where our candidates can really add value, that’s super important to ensure longevity in a role so they can grow and prosper in their career, just like Jessica is doing.”
A big year!
Looking to the future, Jessica’s upcoming wedding is occupying plenty of her energy right now. But furthering her career in 2023 is also a big priority. “I’ve already done my Certificate 3 in Childcare,” she says. “That was a real achievement for me. I would like to complete my Diploma as well, and I would love to stay here at Explore & Develop for a long time.”
Rest assured, these are both things Omnia Inclusive will be working hard to make happen, so watch this (play) space…!

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