Australia is in the grip of a massive workforce shortage, with almost a third of businesses struggling to find suitable staff (ABS 2023).
Despite this, figures show just 53 per cent of people with disability are in the labour force, compared with 84 per cent without disability.
These statistics are a major driver for non-profit organisation VMCH, which has spent the last year growing its unique Employment Pathways program and supporting people with a disability to learn job-ready skills in hospitality, horticulture and retail.
Sunday 3 December is International Day of People with Disability, a day to promote community awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability.
Just 53 per cent of people with disability are in the labour force, compared with 84 per cent without disability.
VMCH has set itself the target of helping 100 people to find and sustain meaningful open employment by 2025. Since February this year, 19 have found work, six of them with VMCH.
Ararat resident Tyson Ballinger, 28, is one such employee. He works with VMCH’s Green Team, in which three gardening crews across Melbourne and regional Victoria deliver commercial gardening and maintenance services to VMCH home care clients.
‘I have found it to be really good and enjoyable, and love all aspects so far, especially mowing and whipper snipping,’ Tyson says.
‘We are always working on new tasks. I do feel more confident in myself since starting.’
Green Team Coordinator Josh Dorn says Tyson’s enthusiasm for his job is growing, and he’s about to increase his working hours.
The Green Team’s Ararat crew is new, part of VMCH’s plan to support more people with disability seeking work in regional areas.
‘It’s great to see it evolve, and I am excited by the prospect of it growing into a positive part of Ararat’s community,’ Josh says. ‘I enjoy working with clients like Tyson and helping them gain skills and confidence in themselves.’
VMCH General Manager Disability Services Daniel Carter says developing the skills and confidence to work in a job that brings meaning and pays a fair wage is a life-changing opportunity.
‘For many of our clients, these are opportunities that simply have not previously existed. And for some who have been able to find a job, the complexity of staying in the job has been overwhelming.’
Over the next year, VMCH hopes to raise its training hours by 20 per cent across its social enterprise cafes, op shops and horticulture programs to help double the number of people transitioning from training to employment.
For many of our clients, these are opportunities that simply have not previously existed.
‘Of course, not everyone wants to be a barista, maintenance officer or retail worker,’ Daniel says. ‘So, to help people explore jobs in other industries, we partner with businesses such as the YMCA, Veolia, Ventia and governments who are both committed to the benefits of a diverse workforce and in need of staff to fill critical skills gaps.
‘By normalising the employment of people with disability in a range of roles and industries, we reduce the anxiety of businesses to embrace the opportunity for the more than 1.1 million Australians with a disability to find a meaningful job.’
Find out more about VMCH’s Employment Pathways program here or call 1300 698 624.
Banner image: Tyson working in a greenhouse. (Photo courtesy of VMCH.)
Fiona Basile29 November 2022