Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sector encouraged to be ‘disability confident’ employers

Government is calling for disability barriers to be lowered for people with all types of disabilities when it comes to employment.
Labour market statistics show that New Zealanders with disabilities are three times less likely to be employed than non-disabled people. File photo

As the primary sector continues to grapple with labour shortages, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is encouraging employers to become “disability confident” as it strives to enhance inclusivity in the food and fibre sector.

MPI, in partnership with Universal College of Learning (UCOL), recently held two apiculture taster courses for people with disabilities at the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in Wairarapa.

UCOL apiculture teacher Peter “PJ” Ferris wants farmers and growers to give young people with disabilities a chance.

“These kids have the ability to do jobs. All we need is the general workforce to give them a chance. You know they’re going to turn up, and you definitely know they’re going to be loyal to their employers,” Ferris said.

He said people with disabilities are capable but often marginalised. His daughter has cerebral palsy and has been employed for 20 years.

They’re keen to learn and courses such as these instil the confidence needed to take the next step, he said.

MPI director for investment, skills and performance Cheyne Gillooly said people living with disabilities face many hurdles when it comes to getting a job. Labour market statistics show that New Zealanders with disabilities are three times less likely to be employed than non-disabled people.

She said 1-in-5 disabled people are employed and less than half of disabled people aged between 15 and 24 are in education or training programmes compared to 10% for non-disabled youth.

“There are a lot of roles in our food and fibre sector which are suitable for people with disabilities, a group of people who are often overlooked when it comes to gaining employment,” Gillooly said.

Read: Days of relying on cheap migrant labour are gone

MPI workforce advisor Claire Hill said the programmes at Taratahi are “about showcasing what they can, rather than what they can’t, do” and believes the barriers to employment can and should be lowered for people with all types of disabilities.

“There’s a huge range of disabilities. People recovering from long-term injuries, for example, who may not identify as disabled, or those with long-term managed health conditions, mental health barriers, and neurodiversity,” Hill said.

If you are a disability confident employer, or want to know more about what that means, get in touch with workforceteam@mpi.govt.nz

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