A miniature supermarket decked out with functional checkouts, shopping baskets and stocked shelves is the last thing you'd expect to find at a high school.
But for Black Mountain School, a school for students with disabilities, the simulated shop has become a life-changing opportunity for its students.
Year 12 student Shea Cass-Dunbar hadn't been able to find a vocation he was passionate about. He dabbled in gardening, art and hospitality, but finally found his calling after working at the school store.
"I think I would want this [operating the checkout] as my main job at Woolies if I get invited to have a job there after I leave [Black Mountain School]," Shea said.
The Black Mountain School Fresh Food Store has been developed in partnerships with Woolworths, who have provided uniforms and produce, and Fujitsu who have supplied the checkouts.
The store, which will be staffed by year 10, 11 and 12 students, provides them with the opportunity for real-world retail experience and is used to prepare them for a work-experience placement.
It's the first school supermarket of its kind in Canberra and has been set up after Janette Cass-Dunbar spoke to Woolworths general manager of operations and infrastructure Patrick Misciagna.
Ms Cass-Dunbar hopes the educational opportunity helps her son make the transition from school to the workforce after spending the past 12 months trying to find the right path for Shea.
"He was thrilled to get into the retail group that he even asked his support worker to take him to Woolworths Belconnen to find out what they do," Ms Cass-Dunbar said.
"He's wearing long pants instead of short pants because that's what the workers at Woolies do. I think it's a fantastic opportunity for them to get into the workforce."
Students at Black Mountain School also have the opportunity to work in their student-run café Six Degrees Café, which has been open for the past five years.
The cafe and the supermarket give students a chance to discover a career pathway and learn communication skills.
"A part of that [work experience training] is those really important communications and soft skills," said Education Minister Yvette Berry.
"Looking at somebody and making a connection and learning about 'please' and 'thank you' and 'what can I help you with'. All of those skills are often left behind."
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