New career pathways paved for people with a disability

by Brett Henebery06 Jul 2017
The Australian Federal Government has recently embarked on an initiative to increase vocational training for young people with disabilities.

The government has said it wants to increase the number of these students with access vocational opportunities from 200,000 to 400,000, paving the way for potentially life-changing career pathways.

Doing its own part to boost training opportunities for this group is TAFE SA.

Brian Rungie, executive director of education at TAFE SA, told The Advertiser that this year the TAFE is experiencing a spike in the number of students enrolled in disability-related qualifications.

“The NDIS and our ageing population means more health care workers are going to be needed to look after people in hospitals, their homes and within the community – and the skills needed for these in-demand roles will come from vocational training,” Rungie said.

To encourage people to take up this increased demand for service providers, TAFE SA has developed a “Pre-employment program”.

This involves the TAFE working in partnership with disability organisations and regional development boards to link more people into job opportunities within the disability sector.

“The program is designed to encourage people who are returning to the workforce, career changers, new job seekers or new employees who have had no prior opportunity to gain a qualification,” Rungie said.

“For example, TAFE SA has developed pre-employment programs with United Care Wesley Bowden (UCWB) and Renewal SA to train participants as support workers, customised to UCWB’s practices and policies.”

Around Australia, other initiatives – including one launched by not-for-profit organisation, Fighting Chance – are providing skills training for people with a disability.

In May, Fighting Chance, Co-founded in 2011 by Laura O’Reilly and her brother Jordan, launched a new skilling hub to provide a range of opportunities for Australians with disability.

The new work hub will create 20 opportunities per day for Australians with disability to engage in meaningful work experience, training, and vocational participation.

O’Reilly, told L&D Professional that the severely disabled have been “completely forgotten” in the push to upskill Australians.

“What happens when people with disabilities leave school is that there are two pathways that open up. One pathway is into employment, but this is targeted towards people with mild and moderate disabilities,” she said.

“The other pathway is what’s called community participation. Society thinks of these two things as separate in the respect that these people either can work or they can’t, and in the latter case they must to community participation.”

O’Reilly explained that the idea for the program was inspired by her brother Shane, who had a profound physical disability and a moderate intellectual disability.

“He was a complex, interesting, funny and talented young man with a lot of computer skills, and he had tons to contribute,” she said.

However, O’Reilly said that his attempts to go into the workforce were shunned as “society felt he had nothing to contribute”.

“It’s costing the taxpayer more than $40,000 per person per year for these people to sit and do nothing.”

And this is not just an Australian problem, O’Reilly pointed out.

“This is happening all around the world. People need to understand that everybody has something to contribute and can be skilled.

“In my experience, I’ve not yet met one person – irrespective of how profound their disability is – who does not want to contribute and doesn’t have some skills that cannot be harnessed by society.”

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