Improving the long-term employment outcomes for young workers with psychosocial disability is the focus of a new three-year research project being led by QUT, the Australian Retail Association (ARA) and Disability Employment Australia.
One-hundred and twenty young adults will participate in the project with trials in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, to establish their “retail readiness.”
The 2022-2025 project received a $867,420 grant from the Australian Federal Government, administered by the Department of Social Services.
The research team will gather evidence on preparing and supporting workers, designing, and delivering their training with tailored coaching to maximise sustainable employment opportunities.
Young adults aged between 15-24 with a disability are more than twice as likely to be unemployed and experience longer periods unemployment, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing.
The project will also help the retail sector provide a more accessible environment for diverse workforces.
There are more than 46,000 retail job vacancies with the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and skills shortages leading to the tightened labour market.
The QUT research team includes Professor Gary Mortimer, who also chairs the ARA’s Consumer Research Committee.
Professor Mortimer said evidence showed customers’ perceptions of engaging with a diverse workforce brought about positive associations with the brand.
“Developing programs to help people with psychosocial disability overcome barriers to employment enables them to enter a workforce that provides gainful employment, social engagement and meaningful income,” he said.
“This is real world research that’s going to deliver real outcomes for not just retail businesses, but society in general.”
ARA CEO Paul Zahra said retail is one of Australia’s most diverse workforces, employing one in ten Australians.
“Improving the diversity, equality and inclusion opportunities for people with a disability is an important focus for our members,” he said.
“We applaud and warmly welcome this investment from the Federal Government which will be critically important in undertaking this work.
“We also welcome the opportunity to work alongside the experts at Disability Employment Australia and our partners at QUT to progress the opportunities within this area.”
Certificates for completion of the program will be provided through the ARA’s registered training organisation, the Retail Training Institute.
Chief investigators from QUT’s Business School also include Professor Byron Keating and Associate Professors Amanda Beatson and Frank Mathmann. The grant’s project manager is QUT’s Dr Iain Waller with partners including Rick Kane from Disability Employment Australia (DEA) and the policy team from the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).