Extremely educated, however underestimated: How disability employment providers fail tertiary certified people
When Gabrielle Trenbath was finishing her Masters in Diplomacy, she did what many college graduates do and went to an employment agency to help her find a career.
Despite her college degree, the jobs she was offered were for the simplest of tasks like filling envelopes.
Trenbath says the disabled employment agency only seemed to see their cerebral palsy, not their academic performance and professional skills.
“They thought because I was disabled, I would get welfare and they didn’t need any work for me, they could just take their time,” said Trenbath.
“I’ve never been on welfare and don’t get NDIS funding, so I have to work. I don’t just want to work, I have to work in order to be financially independent … I don’t want to rely on government funding. “
When Trenbath tried to find a job through a regular employment agency, she received job offers that, in her opinion, were “precarious” at best.
The Australia Talks National Survey found that most Australians think it’s harder for young Australians than it was before, and 88 percent believe job security is an issue for Australia.
Australians with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed
The youth unemployment rate in Australia had risen to 11.6 percent in 2019, while at 25 percent it is more than double that of young people with disabilities.
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In 2018, the Australian Network on Disability reported that graduates with disabilities took 61.5 percent longer to find full-time positions than their disabled counterparts.
In addition, a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 31.9 percent of people with disabilities experience discrimination in the workplace.
This treatment causes some people to avoid work altogether, with people who are discriminated against on the basis of their disability less likely to find employment than those who have not.
So instead of going back to a government-funded job agency, Trenbath used her own initiative to advertise and get her current position as a civil servant.
“You need to see us as people who can add value to organizations,” she said.
“[They need to see us as] Wealth, no problems. As long as they don’t see us as people who work and have to work, that won’t change. “
According to the recent Australia Talks survey, half of Australians believe that large companies should commit to recruiting a percentage of their minority employees.
Mary Sayers, CEO of the advocacy group for children and adolescents with disabilities, says experiences like Trenbath’s are quite common.
“Young people [with disability] have high expectations of what they want to do with their future, but often the answers are categorized according to really low expectations, “she said.
“We know that young people in general face enormous barriers to finding secure work, but young people with disabilities have an even harder time. That is why we see these statistics for about one in four unemployed people with disabilities.”
She says what young people with disabilities really need are employers who are open to employing all young people with disabilities, regardless of their disability.
“Unfortunately, we see that many employers are not ready to hire a young person with a disability.”
Mary Sayers, CEO of the advocacy group for children and adolescents with disabilities, says experiences like Ms. Trenbath’s are quite common.
Sayers says a national employment strategy for youth with disabilities should be developed to assess what is needed to increase the number of young people attending university and vocational training and what support is available for career pathways is required.
“We know that young people with disabilities have difficulty getting adequate adjustments even in university, so we need to increase the number of young people completing their degrees,” she said.
“There really needs to be a strong focus on inclusion and a strong focus on getting young people to complete their higher education, but then there are opportunities in the job market too.”
Sayers said it was vital for young people to know their rights as individuals who have a right to employment and to know that employers are required by law to make appropriate adjustments, as set out in the Disability Discrimination Act.
She states that most of the complaints filed with the Australian Commission on Human Rights relate to employers failing to make these reasonable adjustments.
“We need to have higher expectations of young people with disabilities and the contributions they can make to employment,” said Sayers.
“We need to make sure that young people are involved, but we also need companies, nonprofits and the government to recruit really young people with disabilities.”
Preparation for future ventures
Although Trenbath now towers in her current role and has tremendous success, she said there have been times when she has doubted herself.
“When you are constantly told from childhood that you are less capable, even if you are perfectly capable [of working] and you have a degree … that’s hard to overcome. “
She says that if she could offer any advice to students with disabilities currently enrolled in the university it would be to “do as much as you can at the beginning of your studies, talk to as many people as you can and just go outside”.
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