Local employers discover value in workers with disability

Everclad owner Brian Mobbs with his valued employee, who is a worker with a disability.
Everclad owner Brian Mobbs with his valued employee, who is a worker with a disability.

Story sponsored by NOVA Employment Services.

If you ask most Aussies what our most important value is as a nation, a majority would likely tell you it's a belief that everybody is entitled to a fair go. Despite this, many people with a disability struggle to find a job.

In fact, recent studies by Price Waterhouse Cooper and Deloitte Access Economics concluded that employment inequality was costing the economy billions of dollars in lost GDP.

This is mostly due to preconceived biases or misconceptions about the actual capabilities of people with a disability.

That's why NOVA Employment Services recently ran a highly successful campaign titled "100 Jobs In 100 Days", to help raise awareness of this issue.

NOVA's staff also works hard every single day to bring together local businesses and capable enthusiastic workers who are appreciative of the opportunity.

One of The Shire's true success stories is that of a young man, who has become a much loved and integral part of the team at local engineering firm Everclad in Kurnell.

The employee came to work for Everclad after owner Brian Mobbs approached NOVA looking to employ a person with a disability.

Mr Mobbs has a younger brother with a disability and has always been a big believer that when you're experiencing good fortune, you should make an effort to give something back.

The position was the right match for worker, who was a long term job seeker and had joined NOVA's Transition to Work program directly from high school.

An employee listening to instructions from his co-worker.

An employee listening to instructions from his co-worker.

When he first came to Everclad, he had a few challenges to overcome but with the help of Mr Mobbs and the boys on the factory floor, he has been able to flourish and achieve things nobody at the time thought possible.

Thanks in large part to the supportive and inclusive environment, he now takes care of some essential early steps in the aluminium fabrication process. He even uses some powered machinery and independently made the decision to increase his employment to two and half days a week.

Mr Mobbs says they've worked hard to empower young worker and he's become more independent as a result. His family is also thrilled with his progress.

"They are really happy and dad likes that I'm saving for a new car and being a responsible adult," the employee said.

"I've made new friends and working has helped with my independence. It gives me a purpose and keeps me out of trouble. I love waking up early to go and do a hard day's work and the team are really good for me."

Mr Mobbs says the young man has become a critical member of the team. He adds to the efficiency of the business and it's noticeable when he's not there.

"The stuff he does is important. If he doesn't do it, it has a dramatic impact on the team," Mr Mobbs explained.

"That's the thing, yes he has a disability, yes he only works part time in the business, but the time that he's here, the tasks that he undertakes, have to be done. We're not getting him in here to make up the numbers. When he's not here the business does not function as efficiently as it could."

The employee is "a real character" - he gives the boys he works with a good laugh - and they all make an effort with him.

He also attends the monthly team barbecues and has even gone to watch his boss play footy on the weekend. Mr Mobbs believes this has been key to his development.

For more information, visit: https://au.linkedin.com/company/nova-employment_2

Another local employer that has had massive success when hiring people with a disability is Miranda RSL.

Executive Chef Andrew Harper formed a relationship with NOVA five years ago and has given a number of people the opportunity to reach their full potential.

He currently employs three people with a disability, two apprentice chefsand a food and beverage attendant.

If his experience has taught him nothing else it's that with the right support and training, people with disabilities can perform at the same level as those without.

However, he admits that when he first embarked on this journey five years ago he was not without his reservations. He had some preconceived biases but overtime he has come to realise that they were unfounded.

"I was like everybody else. At first I wasn't sure that they could do it," Mr Harper explained.

"(Working in a kitchen) is a pretty tough gig. It's a hard environment. We have time and quality constraints. We have a lot of pressure and everything has to be done quickly and efficiently..." he continued.

"It's also a robust environment... So, I was concerned about whether they could handle the stress and the pressure and whether or not they could learn. But, overtime those concerns have been put away... I've changed my opinion."

Miranda RSL Executive Chef Andrew Harper giving his apprentice a few pointers in the kitchen. The young man is a worker with a disability.

Miranda RSL Executive Chef Andrew Harper giving his apprentice a few pointers in the kitchen. The young man is a worker with a disability.

Mr Harper has already qualified one apprentice chef with a disability and says his two current chefs are both meeting all of their requirements.

At the end of the day, he says, it all comes down to the quality of the training and having patience. It is the focus on getting things right in the beginning that makes the difference in the long run.

"It's not without its challenges, don't get me wrong, it's not all sunshine and rainbows, there is a lot of hard work that goes into training a person with a disability..." he explained.

"Sometimes there is a lot of repetition and reminding them of the standard (we expect)... and bringing them back to what we're doing... (but) depending upon the disability, you can get the same level of output from them as what you get from people without a disability," he continued.

"It's like anything, you get out of it what you put in. They just require a little bit of extra support and they have their own needs. They all have their own way of learning. So we provide assistance where they need it."

The opportunity has not been lost on the three employees, whose lives have improved as a result of their employment.

"I suffered anxiety before getting this Job, but now I am so much more confident with people and life in general," one of the apprentice chefs explained.

"(Getting a job) has made me a productive member of society and the people I work with are pretty good."

His family are also proud of his continued success. He now has the ability to pay board and save money for his future.

Miranda RSL Executive Chef Andrew Harper and his apprentice chef, who is a worker with a disability.

Miranda RSL Executive Chef Andrew Harper and his apprentice chef, who is a worker with a disability.

Mr Harper says working with people with disabilities has also had a positive impact on his life too, It has made him more empathetic and a more efficient trainer/mentor.

"I think it helps you to identify the different ways people learn and that helps you to teach them quicker," he said.

"Instead of just doing what you've always done it teaches you to adjust your approach. Instead of getting frustrated and thinking, 'Why aren't you getting this? Why aren't you following instructions?' Well, now you know why..."

Mr Harper plans to further his relationship with NOVA into the future and continue to give people with a disability a go. He says other local employers should do the same.

Mr Mobbs agrees. In fact he's currently in the process of working with the employment agency to see if he can find a second employee, preferably one with a physical impairment that is currently being undervalued.

"It's a small thing for us to do (as employers) but it makes a massive difference for somebody else," he said.

"It's not even a sacrifice you're making. You're getting something in return from these people and you're giving them probably the biggest return of their lives."

For more information, employers and hiring managers can contact NOVA Employment at 1300 ABILITY (224 5489)

Story sponsored by NOVA Employment Services.