Gov tackles tourism skills shortage with $3.3M to encourage hiring people with disability

woman with down syndrome florist working in flower shop

The government is tackling the skills shortage with a $3.3 million pilot to identify barriers to tourism SMEs hiring people with disability.

A joint initiative announced by Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth and Tourism Minister Don Farrell, the pilot program will address perceived barriers to recruiting, retaining and training staff with disability.

The benefits of a diverse workforce are widely accepted, including increased innovation and productivity, and diversity also links to better financial performance.

The Australian Network on Disability put together a list of the business benefits of employing people with disability. For the visitor economy, benefits include the ability to widen your talent pool, expand your consumer base and retain workers.

Research has also challenged misperceptions about employing people with disability. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) almost 9 in 10 people with disability do not need more support to work and about 8 in 10 people with disability do not need time off because of their disability.

Sydney’s iFLY Indoor Skydiving recently took part in an Austrade-led Accessible Tourism Mentoring Pilot Project, using a local employment agency specialising in employment for people with disability (called Disability Employment Services Providers).

iFLY’s head of sales Barbara McCarthy said it has been working well.

“We know we do a lot of things well, but we wondered if we had missed anything,” McCarthy said.

“The pilot project report suggested we hire someone with disability, so we hired an agency to assist with finding a suitable candidate. Our new staff member has now been with us for 2 months and they have been amazing.”

In the few cases where a workplace needs modification, JobAccess and the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) can help businesses to become more accessible, according to the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade)

Austrade’s THRIVE 2030 long-term strategy for the sustainable growth of Australia’s visitor economy has made building a resilient workforce a priority, including attracting workers from under-represented groups. It’s estimated that more than 113,000 people with disability are unemployed or underemployed, and ready to work.

Austrade is encouraging the travel and tourism industry to connect with the disability employment sector on the JobAccess website, where you can search for a Disability Employment Services Provider near you.

These providers are experts at connecting people with disability to prospective employers, and they can also offer your business advice on promoting job vacancies, shortlisting candidates and interviewing people with disability.

They can also provide guidance on disability awareness in the workplace, available financial support, flexible workplace arrangements and disability legislation.

The Employment Assistance Fund helps is another helpful resource that helps employers buy work-related modifications, equipment, Auslan services and workplace support. Free workplace assessments are available to determine what is needed to support an employee with disability.

Image: iStock/andreswd

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