Connecting disability employers and employment services
Partnering to bring about change
It has been apparent, when discussing Disability workforce issues with Disability Service Providers across Victorian regional areas that there has been limited referrals and relationships with Government Funded Employment Agencies (Jobactive and Disability Employment Services).
The Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (DESSFB) oversee these employment services. Andrew Gibbs, Workforce Connector for the Mallee, Loddon and Central Highlands made contact with the Employer and Workforce Strategies Team at DESSFB who agreed to collaborate on running a consultation and workshop process aimed at closing this gap. This DESSFB team is currently focussing on the Health and Care sector. They have developed a range of strategies and materials designed to inform the employment services sector of the work opportunities available to jobseekers in a sector that is one of the largest employers in regional areas and there are widespread workforce shortages.
The framework for this strategic approach included:
- The NDS Workforce Connector organising interviews for DESSFB representatives with senior staff at Amicus and Interchange, two disability service providers located in Bendigo.
- Both organisations experience difficulties recruiting sufficient Disability Support Workers to meet their business needs. This is despite trying innovative approaches and putting considerable effort into solving the problem. The information from these meetings was then used in the information sessions for employment consultants.
- DESSFB invited employment consultants from Bendigo based Jobactive and DES providers. They coordinated with Department of Social Security (DSS) to include DES providers.
- The CEO of Amicus presented at the sessions to build employment consultants understanding of the employment opportunities available in the sector and the recruitment needs so they could refer appropriate jobseekers to the sector. There was an opportunity for the group to ask questions and discuss what they had heard.
Two information sessions were conducted. These sessions covered:
- Role of the Disability Workforce Innovation Connectors and the NDS
- Getting to know the sector.
- The Disability Workforce and the different roles available
- What values and attributes do employers seek for these roles
- Recruitment processes undertaken by providers
- Basic checks that job seekers must have
- What Disability employers would find helpful from Employment Services
- Resources available for employment consultants
- Employment Consultants increased their awareness of the sector. They took away valuable information about the Disability sector and the many work opportunities.
- There was increased clarity about how jobs in the sector could meet the requirements of Job active outcomes definitions. For example, a worker on a base rate of $26/hr needs to work only 23 hrs to meet the $550 per week income target to trigger a milestone payment for the Jobactive. The target number of hours further decreases if they are willing to work on weekends or after hours when the hourly rates are higher.
- Some myths about working in the sector were identified and addressed so more accurate information can be provided to potential workers by the Employment services. This will have a flow on to ensure employee expectations match their experience and help with retention.
- A possible pilot funded under the Launch into Work program may follow. This would provide resources to help support workers to get the checks and training needed to be job ready and consequently be more attractive to employers.
- Similar consultation and workshop sessions have since been held in Wangaratta and more are being negotiated for Victorian regional areas.
Findings and Learnings
- The information provided to employment consultants was valuable, helping to broaden their knowledge of the opportunities provided by the sector, for workers and their organisations.
- There are many resources available to consultants on the sector
- Hearing the perspective, first-hand from a disability service provider was very worthwhile and well received.
- Increasing understanding of the opportunities, needs and partnership potential can provide workers, employment opportunities and positive results for employment services in regional areas.
Longer Term Outcomes (3 months on)
Anne-Maree Davis, guest speaker at the original event and CEO of Amicus, a Bendigo Disability Service Provider, challenged the government-funded employment organisations to create an ongoing business relationship that focussed on an end-to-end recruitment process. They wanted:
- An organisation who is prepared to develop a relationship, understand the business and the values-based recruitment process.
- Able to identify the potential values fit in job seekers
- Be involved as a partner in helping to run information sessions
- Ensure applicants have completed safety screening prior to interview – National or International Police Checks, Working with Children’s Checks, Current CPR and First Aid
- Assist with scheduling of interviews and the provision of feedback to job seekers who may be unsuccessful
Four organisation’s contacted Amicus. Two left information packages while another two called in personally to present their services. These two, Matchworks (a Jobactive/DES provider) and Axis Employment (a DES provider) combined to be the preferred partners to assist Amicus with their recruitment needs.
This is a unique example of two government-funded employment agencies working together cooperatively in a competitive market, and who understand that together they will provide a better service to the employer and to the candidates.
The first information session was held in late January 2020, with 20 pre-screened job seekers in attendance. All applicants had already completed Police Checks, A Working with Children check and completed a 1st Aid Certificate.
Anne-Maree, CEO of Amicus conducted the first information session and 17 of the 20 candidates are now going through the group interview stage.
Amicus now have a business partner that will coordinate their recruitment needs. This enables Amicus to focus on their core business of providing supports to people of all ages, with a disability and vulnerable children to dream big and to live a good life!
- How could your organisation optimise links with local Government Funded Employment Agencies?
- Would this approach work for you?