Movers + Shakers, People of LoganNovember 25, 2023 / 3 minute read

Disability hiring: a competitive edge

At 19, Regents Park resident Isabelle Starr was qualified, eager to learn and ready for her first job.

However, like many others on the autism spectrum, she found it difficult to speak during stressful situations, especially during job interviews.

Discouraged and fearful, Isabelle imagined she would never find work – until she joined the Jigsaw program in 2021.

Jigsaw, a social enterprise that prepares people with disability for work through work, focuses on developing transferable skills and provides practical experience before transitioning participants into open employment.

This organisation exemplifies the Disability Action Week 2023 theme, “Access ignites: it’s good business”, which focuses on increasing employment and economic participation of people with disability.

Isabelle is an example of how those with a disability can profoundly contribute to our families, communities, workplaces and economy by boosting the bottom lines of employers.

‘I started as a trainee and really enjoyed learning about file management and scanning,’ Isabelle says.

‘I became confident in my work through repetition and took part in group training for workforce skills so I could become more confident and professional.

‘The Jigsaw team were so supportive, patient and never got angry.’

Today, Isabelle is happier, more confident and an invaluable asset to her new team.

She works as a paid trainee on an Allianz contract, where she processes motor assessment reports, payments and claim allocations.

Sienna Fuller, a business lead at Jigsaw, has witnessed Isabelle’s growth firsthand.

‘I have seen a massive growth in her self-confidence, which has filtered into other aspects of her life – she’s become so much more social and has taken on a leadership role in the team,’ she says.

‘Her communication skills have greatly improved; she’s showing more initiative and has really come out of her shell.’

Isabelle, who initially struggled with longer working hours, is already diligently working towards becoming a full-time employee.

Allianz is just one of many organisations that work closely with Jigsaw’s Connect team to accommodate staff with additional needs.

The Connect team support and educate employers seeking workforce diversity and ensure they create inclusive, safe, and welcoming environments for Jigsaw graduates.

This support continues even after participants complete the program, with regular check-ins during the onboarding process.

‘The professional development I’ve received has been helpful – I learned how to communicate professionally and how to read my payslip,’ Isabelle says.

‘The Jigsaw program has made employment seem not so scary and I feel less concerned about going into a new workplace now.

‘I have also been able to practise going into the city.’

Annabel Lyons, Jigsaw’s community engagement lead, says Australians with disability are one of the most disadvantaged groups in the labour market.

Barriers to employment include lack of accessibility in workplaces, bias during interview processes and an unwillingness to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

‘We believe in creating a world where workers living with a disability are given the best opportunity to be themselves,’ Annabel says.

Learn more about Jigsaw.

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