Jason O’Connell

Fabrication Supervisor

In 2018, BackTrack established our own social enterprise, BackTrack Works. We offer a real-world environment where young people can build their skills and qualifications through practical work experience, training and employment. While our team of BackTrack Works supervisors oversee the quality products and services we provide to customers, their biggest focus is on training our trainees and employees and offering them the support they need to stay on track.

We sat down with our fabrication supervisor, Jason, to talk about how he came to work at BackTrack and what a golden day looks like on the job.

What do you do at BackTrack?

I supervise the boys in the fabrication shop and I started in 2022.

Where did you work before this?

I ran a metal fabrication shop. We did everything from fine stainless steel work, roof flashings and cattle panels to the commercial, structural steel.

What initially made you check out BackTrack?

At the time, I was getting jaded at my old workplace. I enjoyed it but I was making money for ‘the man’. And that’s all I was doing – earning a wage and making someone else money, really. 

Some of the BackTrack boys came into where I was working and I got chatting to them and the old fabrication supervisor at BackTrack about what they were doing and I thought it was a good thing. Me and my partner have a blended family – we’ve got six kids, so I’ve been through the rough side of it. I’m not saying I’ve done the world’s best job but I looked at my own family and thought, ‘What would happen to them if I wasn’t a functioning adult?’ 

What have you learned since you started work here?

Everybody’s got that spark inside and you just need to activate it. And to relax about getting the product out the door. That used to be my focus. Now I know we’ve got to work on these fellas, what they make is incidental. 

The kids really respond to you. Why is that?

I achieve what I do by listening, talking, and joking with them. If you talk to them and listen, it’s amazing what they’ll tell you about what’s happened to them, what their dreams are. I don’t bullshit ’em and I don’t put up with much crap. If they don’t want to participate that day, come back tomorrow, we’ll have a crack. But I don’t run into that problem much. I have a lot of fun, too. I feel almost guilty about taking my money at the end of the week. But I still take it, don’t worry about that!

How does it feel when the kids do open up to you?

Mate, it’s a good feeling. It’s good that you’ve built up that trust and they tell you something deeply personal. Half the way to solve your problems is just to tell someone about it. 

What’s a good day at work for you now?

It’s seeing the boys go with minimal input from me. I float around and problem solve, but they’re just working by themselves, heads down, bums up. And sending them home tired. I see my role as preparing them so they can work anywhere.

How does that compare to a good day in your old job?

A good day in my old job was making the boss money. Here, I’m helping some young fellas.

If there's a person out there who's looking to do something different with their career, what would you say to them about considering BackTrack?

That feeling you get when you’ve helped someone and you can actually see a consistent change in their life – if you could bottle it, mate, you’d make a million dollars. I don’t want to come off as a do-gooder. I’ve seen do-gooders come and go. They’re there for themselves. You can’t come here to fix your problems or to make yourself feel good. Feeling good is a by-product of doing the job well.