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Education and Employment

Pilot program accelerating career advancement for people with disabilities

Two business people with wheelchair in the office working together.

The Albanese Labor Government remains focussed on boosting employment opportunities and meaningful careers for people with disability, with the official launch of the Career Pathways Pilot on November 22. 

An outcome from the Jobs and Skills Summit – the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Network on Disability have partnered with the Commonwealth and four large employers to deliver an 18-month pilot aimed at increasing understanding across all levels of management of the barriers to career advancement that employees with disability face, along with ways to support them to take action to reduce those barriers.

Some of Australia’s biggest employers have signed up to take part in the pilot including Coles Group, Compass Group, Kmart and Target Group and Woolworths.

A total of $3.3 million in Commonwealth funding has been allocated for the pilot. It will initially focus on more than 80 Australians living with disability, with the learnings expected to assist many more.

There are 4.4 million Australians living with disability, including 2.1 million of working age. However only 53.4 per cent are in the labour workforce. The unemployment rate for people with disability is much higher than those without disability and this hasn’t shifted in more than 30-years.

Around 93 per cent of working-age people with disability face difficulties finding work due to the lack of suitable employment and perceived limitations of their disability, however 88 per cent need no adjustments in order to take up employment. They just need employers to change their attitudes and perceptions about the value of employing people with disability.

Building a diverse and inclusive workplace not just presents opportunity for people with disability but represents a significant opportunity for business and society more broadly.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said the pilot aims to improve the capability, confidence and connection of people with disability employed by participating businesses.

“We know people with disability face multiple barriers in the workplace, and this program aims to ensure everyone has the same opportunities for career progression,” Minister Rishworth said.

“Boosting disability employment shouldn’t just be about any job, it should provide pathways to career progression too, and we know that disability-inclusive businesses grow profits more than four times faster than their peers.

“This program will allow employers to support people with disability advance their careers and become future leaders, as well as build disability-inclusive workplace cultures and demonstrate safe and supportive working environments.”

The pilot will be co-designed with people with disability and take an adaptive implementation approach, ensuring it best meets the needs of participants.

Employers will have access to recruitment expertise, tools and resources to employ people with disability and move their focus beyond entry-level jobs toward management positions.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black said the Business Council and its members are committed to helping ensure all Australians reach their full potential and share in the opportunities and prosperity of our nation.

“This initiative will lead to increased, sustainable and measurable improvements in employment and career advancement outcomes for people with disability,” Mr Black said.

“We need a concerted effort to drive change from job design through to recruitment and move from entry level jobs to advanced and executive roles.

“If Australia moved into the top eight OECD countries for employing people with disability, we could see an additional $50 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2050.”

Australia’s peak body for the employment of people with disability, the Australian Network on Disability, will work with the four employers to co-design, implement and oversee the program,

Australian Network on Disability’s Head of Strategy Amber O’Shea said the program aims to improve the entrenched over-representation of people with disability in entry level jobs.

“We need to address the critical shortage of people with disability in leadership roles in Australia and the absence of people with disability on company boards,” Ms O’Shea said.

“The Career Pathways Pilot is entirely co-designed and led by people with disability and focuses on career progression which challenges middle managers’ and senior leaders’ pre-existing biases and perceptions that people with disability are only suited to entry level roles.

“The program will create opportunities that recognise the depth of experience and skills of people with disability that have been overlooked in the past.”

For more information about the Career Pathways Pilot, visit https://and.org.au/about-us/career-pathways-pilot/.

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