Australian employers look at driving disability employment to meet skills shortage

2 November 2021

a woman waiting in a corridor, holding a tablet computer on her lap while looking into the horizon

The slowdown in regional and international talent mobility has seen employers access an increasingly limited pool, as one in five Australian businesses faces a skills shortage.

JobAccess’ 27th Employer Seminar titled ‘Why disability employment is the answer to Australia’s skills shortage’ was held virtually on 7 October and looked to address this challenge by encouraging employers to consider an often-overlooked talent pool – people with disability.

The online event saw over 135 representatives from diverse sectors join the conversation with a panel of disability confident employers and industry experts. The panel included Kristen Potter, Group Manager Organisational and Cultural Development at The Perth Mint; Dr Jeff Walkley, National Disability and Diversity Manager at Belgravia Leisure and JobAccess General Manager, Daniel Valiente-Riedl.

Discussing the impact of Covid restrictions on skills supply, Daniel said, “More than ever before, the labour shortage has made it essential for businesses to be smart and innovative when recruiting new talent while up-skilling and retaining current employees.

For employers, improving disability confidence is imperative. This is because of the prevalence of disability, its intersectionality with other diversities, and to access a larger pool of skilled candidates.”

(left to right): Katrina Webb OAM, Dr Jeff Walkley, Kristen Potter and Daniel Valiente-Riedl

Think differently about disability

In her keynote address, Triple Paralympic champion Katrina Webb OAM encouraged employers to take a different perspective on disability and approach the conversation with a person’s potential in mind.

“I had to challenge my thinking. And in this space, people do have an unconscious bias of disability. I want you to be able to challenge your thinking as well.

I often say to people, ‘I don't feel like my disability has disabled me. But my thinking can’. And that can affect everybody. We need to think openly, we need to think differently about disability,” she said.

Disability confident approaches to tackle skills shortages

Kristen Potter emphasised that for The Perth Mint, collaborating with Disability Employment Services (DES) providers was a key to accessing a larger talent pool.

“It was critical for us to find people living locally and close to us looking for work, and the DES relationships we have been able to build have been hugely beneficial, for providers, for us, and the candidates themselves,” she said.

Another strategy The Perth Mint found compelling is to raise disability awareness within the organisation by sharing success stories.

“Storytelling is an incredible way to connect with your employees at a personal level. If you do have existing employees with disability who are happy and comfortable to share their stories, it's a brilliant way to make disability a part of the day-to-day,” Kristen explained.

Dr Jeff Walkley discussed the importance of an overarching approach to encourage disability employment.

“We have high-level buy-in from the executives and owners. That has led to strategy, policy, resourcing. We started small, gathered the successful evidence, and showcased that through storytelling and presentations to middle management,” he said.

The Perth Mint and Belgravia Leisure are JobAccess Alumni partners who have completed a 12-month partnership with the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC).

The NDRC offers a free partnership program to support larger employers. Through the partnership, a dedicated Adviser works alongside the organisation to help identify and remove any barriers within the company’s policies, procedures and culture and share good practices to attract, recruit and retain people with disability.

JobAccess hosts a series of employer seminars each financial year in major business centres around Australia. Ensure you and your teams are on our mailing list to receive invitations to upcoming events.

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