UOW College student Patrick Mitchell wears a blue shirt, with his arms crossed, and smiles at the camera. He is standing in front of a building. Photo: Mark Newsham

UOW College graduate Patrick draws on lived experience to establish career in fitness

UOW College graduate Patrick draws on lived experience to establish career in fitness

Collaboration between UOW College and The Disability Trust helped student excel in the workforce

Patrick Mitchell’s journey to becoming a fitness instructor isn’t one you hear of every day. The 25-year-old, who recently completed his Certificate III and IV in Fitness at UOW College, doesn’t shy away from a challenge. His latest achievement proves he is more than capable of overcoming any obstacles life throws at him.

Patrick has become a personal trainer and his work focusses on clients with disability. He relates well to his clients and brings a personal perspective to the role, drawing on his own experience of having cerebral palsy, autism, and intellectual disability.

Patrick did not see these as a barrier to become a fully qualified personal trainer. Rather, it became additional motivation to work with other people with a disability, offering a service unlike any other from a perspective that most personal trainers would not have.

After finishing school in Shellharbour, Patrick went straight into the workforce, picking up jobs in several different industries before deciding he wanted to focus on a career in which he could help other people with a disability.

“Before I started at the College I was working in a factory, and I realised it wasn’t for me,” he said.

“I felt like I needed to do something different, that I needed a challenge in my life and to move forward. I didn’t want to just do it for myself but for other people like me as well.”

Patrick heard about UOW College through The Disability Trust and decided to take on the challenge.

“I thought it was out of my reach at first,” Patrick said. “I had never had to work like I did at UOW College before or test myself like that. In the end, I had to find faith in myself and believe in the people who had faith in me.”

Through Patrick’s previous work experience in administration for a physiotherapy business, he became inspired and felt the move into the fitness industry was something he could do.

UOW College student Patrick Mitchell helps out a client in the gym, who is lifting a barbell. Patrick wears a blue shirt and is pretending to lift weights. Photo: Mark Newsham

Despite the challenges faced, Patrick prides himself on his achievements, completing the course with no additional teaching support and in the same way as his classmates.

“The teachers helped, but I was just like everyone else – if I needed help, I put my hand up.”

Patrick gained work placement at The Disability Trust through UOW College, which benefited his studies and further propelled his employability. At the end of the placement, Patrick successfully gained employment with The Disability Trust.

“I was able to put into practice the theory I was learning, doing observations and group training sessions,” he said.

Not only did Patrick start working almost immediately after graduating, but he won the Dot Hennessy Commitment to Vocational Education Award at the NSW Training Awards for the Southeast Region.

“My clients relate to me in regard to the exercises because I can show them I can do them too, and I can also answer any questions they may have,” he said.

Ryan Sutcliffe, a personal trainer from The Disability Trust, assisted Patrick during his work placement and now they are colleagues.

“In this short space of time, I have seen Patrick's confidence grow substantially as a personal trainer at The Disability Trust,” Ryan said.

“He is always looking to seek advice and gain knowledge from the team. Patrick is very enthusiastic and never wants to stop learning.

“It is always awesome to see organisations give people the same opportunity to excel and make a difference in society, regardless of their different abilities. This is only the beginning of Pat's journey. I'm excited for what the future will bring to him.”