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Building alliances with Workforce Development and Training Institutes (formerly TAFE) or private Registered Training Organisations

When one of your job seekers or workers enrols at an institute, or a private Registered Training Organisation, it may be advantageous to talk directly with the teaching staff with whom they will be involved. You should advise the teaching staff of your involvement with the prospective student, the sorts of assistance or co-ordination that you are able to provide - especially if the person is undertaking a traineeship or apprenticeship. You may also be able to assist your job seeker or worker to give the teaching staff an accurate insight into their needs and abilities, as well as any related learning and participation issues (such as the need for assistive equipment, tutorial assistance, etc.).

Students with disability commonly hold a fear about disclosing their disability in case the information excludes them from being selected. You should reassure your job seeker or worker that it is in their interests to provide this information up-front. Without this information the training provider cannot arrange necessary accommodations and support (such as extra time for examinations, note takers, room access, etc).

Should your job seeker or worker be attending an institute, there is a Disability Services Officer available. The Disability Services Officer will coordinate the support and assistance that will help students with disability to participate more effectively and gain better vocational and employment outcomes.

Services offered to students with disability by Disability Services Officers can include:

Traineeships and apprenticeships for people with disability

There are a growing number of occupations in which traineeships and apprenticeships are offered. Some that are popular amongst people with disability include: automotive, business administration, building and construction, community services, food, hospitality, information technology, land care, light manufacturing, process manufacturing, office skills, retail, small business, transport, warehousing.

A work-based traineeship is an employment-based training arrangement that improves employment prospects for people with disability and widens their career options. During the traineeship students gain valuable on-the-job experience, a nationally recognised qualification and income according to an award or workplace agreement. If an employer takes on one of your job seekers as a trainee, they will need to:

Apprenticeships are designed to train students to become qualified in a trade-related area. Upon successful completion students receive a nationally recognised qualification. An apprenticeship involves structured employment-based training in trade related skills, combined with off-the-job training by an Registered Training Organisation, most commonly a Workforce Development and Training Institutes (formerly TAFE).

Group Training Organisations are funded by government to employ and support apprentices and trainees and then place them with host employers. Group Training Organisations provide a very important service because many small to medium sized employers cannot commit to taking on an apprentice for four years or they may not have the variety of tasks that an apprentice may need to be fully trained. As an alternative, Group Training Organisations employ the apprentices and trainees and hire them out to host employers. The Group Training Organisation then manages the group training arrangements, including liaison with the Registered Training Organisation and monitoring the progress of the apprentice or trainee. Group Training Organisations are expected to be an equal opportunity employer in their own right and, in fact, employ twice the proportion of apprentices and trainees from equity groups than do employers who directly employ their own apprentices.

Because of this growing awareness of, and commitment to, equity groups (including people with disability) an increasing number of disability employment agencies are beginning to establish formal partnerships with local Group Training Organisations. A recent national investigation of disability best practice amongst Group Training Organisations conducted by EDGE Employment Solutions revealed that 19 of the top 20 performing Group Training Organisations, in relation to proportion of apprentices and trainees with disability, had established partnerships with a local disability employment agency. You can view the full report of this research, and find out more about Group Training Organisations, on the Group Training Australia website at www.gtaltd.com.au

Working as a partnership, the disability employment agency and the Group Training Organisation are able to pool their resources, skills and employer contacts to offer host employers a complete package of services and supports should they take on an apprentice or trainee with a disability. These services and supports include:

Matching jobs to graduates

Research has consistently shown that graduates with disability are significantly less likely than other graduates to gain employment, and even less likely again to gain employment in their field of study. Graduates who are employed are also more likely to be working part-time or to be self-employed, and of these, more than half feel that they have been unsuccessful in pursuing their career aspirations.

There are additional factors that may need to be considered when matching jobs to graduates. It may be useful to discuss the importance of each of the following considerations with the graduate (plus any other consideration that the graduate might want taken into account):

After discussing each of these and any other considerations, the graduate should be encouraged to rate the suitability of each vacancy or job opportunity that arises across all of the dimensions.

Marketing graduates with disability

The most commonly reported barriers to employment that graduates report are:

The Graduates with disability section of this web-site provides many useful tips and suggestions for assisting graduates with disability to overcome these barriers and be better equipped to help themselves.

It is surprising how many disability employment services do not routinely collect, store and utilise details about job seekers' qualifications. Many graduates with disability still require your assistance to locate, secure and successfully undertake skilled employment. Most graduates will benefit from your guidance with assembling a professional resume, overcoming employer concerns, managing disclosure and discussing related issues, e.g. the use of assistive equipment. However, graduates also often look to play more of a lead role in career planning meetings, securing references from previous work experiences, constructing their resume, writing to employers, responding directly to employers in interviews, and negotiating pay and conditions.

Workplace modifications and assistive equipment

Most people who have a disability are working without the need for any assistive equipment, adaptations to existing equipment or workplace modifications. In many instances they are able to overcome any difficulties by changing the sequences or work methods that are being used. However, some people may be unable to complete a work task competently and safely without assistive equipment or modifications to their workplace. The most common accommodations that need to be made are: non-slip surfaces or grips, magnifying systems, voice recognition systems, one-handed tools, trolleys, adjustable ergonomic work stations, doorway widening, ramped surfaces and jigs or clamps to hold materials.

To assist with arranging assistive equipment, adaptations or workplace modifications, an Occupational Therapist, or someone with similar skills, can be engaged to determine what is specifically required and where to get it at the lowest cost. If such skills are not available within your employment agency, CRS Australia and the Independent Living Centre (ILC) are able to provide such assistance. Technical Aid to the Disabled WA (TADWA) can also provide disability employment agencies with access to volunteer engineers and the like for the design or adaptation of machinery, equipment or tools.

Services that are funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) have access to the Workplace Modifications Scheme. Under this scheme employers of a person with a disability may be eligible for financial assistance to:

Employers of apprentices with disability may be eligible for a one-off grant of up to $5,000 to pay for workplace modifications, assistive equipment or equipment redesign through the Disabled Australian Apprenticeship Wage Subsidy (DAAWS (this is in addition to the wage subsidies that employers receive under the scheme). Alternatively, this funding may be utilised by the involved Registered Training Organisation.

Using natural supports in the workplace

Maintaining employment is not just about getting the work done adequately. It also involves positive social interactions and relationships with others in the workplace. All workplaces have a unique culture that is shaped by the values and personalities of the people within it. The support of co-workers can be an important tool to becoming a contributing, accepted and valued member of the workplace.

Co-workers can be encouraged to support graduates with disability at work by:

Using external mentors

Students with disability are often overlooked in the fierce competition for graduate positions despite being as talented as their peers. They face greater difficulties because they often have a lower self-esteem, lack suitable working role models and do not have a network of people who can help them to establish a career.

Having a mentor who works in their area of interest increases their confidence, improves their morale, enhances their self-esteem and makes their transition to work speedier and smoother. It also increases the likelihood of them finding employment in their field of study and being fully included in a new organisation and work role.

A growing number of disability employment agencies are offering to assist job seekers and workers with disability to find a mentor whose training and experience matches their own. Mentors can open the doors to their register of current employers of people with disability, as well as facilitate the mentoring relationship by providing knowledge in the personal and professional strategies that will assist them to establish a career in their field of study.

Having a mentor who works in their area of interest makes their transition to work speedier and smoother whilst they are in their final semester. Disability employment services' registers of current employers are likely to be replete with possible mentors - and they have the added advantage of already having an understanding of the challenges faced by people with disability in the workforce.

Having clear requirements of the mentor (and the graduate), along with an easy-to-follow structure, will help disability employment services to attract mentors. A successful mentoring program that has recently been developed for final year graduates with disability is the ‘Willing and Able (WAM)’ mentoring program. In this program, mentors meet with the graduate around eight times for 1-2 hours and focus their discussions on:

Another program that can assist university graduates is:
The ‘Stepping into’ Program
The Employers' Network on Disability is pleased to be able to offer university students with disability the most comprehensive range of internship opportunities yet, for the 2010 program.

To be eligible to participate in ‘Stepping into . . .’ students must have a disability and be in the final or penultimate year of a relevant degree at a recognised tertiary institution. Students must also have the right to work in Australia.

Stepping into . . .’ is a four week paid internship program for university students with disability, running over the winter and summer semesters.

You can find out more about the WAM mentoring program and ‘Stepping into . . .’ by contacting ndco@edge.org.au.


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