It’s a simple equation: If we want to get people into jobs, we need the jobs. And that means we need good relationships with employers. 

Our attention at Workbridge hasn’t always been on employers. More traditionally, our focus was on our disabled job-seekers and our funders who we are contracted to get disabled people into employment.
But we’ve made a big shift in the past five years to focus on our two customers: our employers and our job seekers. 

This has meant really understanding the needs of our employers, building relationships with them, developing products and services to meet their needs, presenting them with better-prepared candidates, supporting our employers for up to 12 months and bridging a two-way gap in perceptions between employers and our job seekers.

Significantly, we employed a National Employer Ambassador, Selwyn Cook to engage with and build genuine partnerships with employers and we created a remote service team that will respond to and triage employer inquiries outside of business hours. 
We collaborated with Access Advisors to be a partner of the Accessibility Tick programme, which takes larger employers on a journey of accessibility, building disability confidence. And we have developed and are piloting our own Silver Employer programme to build the disability confidence of smaller employers and support them to make successful job placements (which we will roll out more widely later this year).

It’s a very different playing field than we saw five years ago, when there was some cynicism about employers in the disability community.

There was a view in the disability community that employers were not focused on getting disabled people into work. There was a trust deficit towards employers, large and small. 

But the thing that we recognised — and it’s not really rocket science — is that ultimately employers are the source of jobs, and we needed to work with them to get disabled people into work.

We can work with the job-seekers, but we need the jobs. We need the employers. The trust deficit had to be bridged — and the only way to do that was to work together.

Workbridge now has or is working toward 35 partnership agreements with employers who are absolutely committed to being more accessible, disability confident and tapping into a talent pipeline of skilled potential employees.  All told, we worked with 1800 employers across New Zealand last year.

We see business leaders increasingly, and very publicly, championing disabled people as employees — like in this article from Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central Chief Executive John Milford.

Five years ago I would have never anticipated seeing big business actively looking at disabled people as a talent pool. But the shift is happening.  And it has enabled us to get a lot more employers alongside us, and a lot more people into work.  
It means that disabled people can trust that there are really great employers out there that are working to make their workplaces more accessible and inclusive. And they can trust that when they come to Workbridge, employers we work with will look at them for the skills that they have, rather than the impairments that they carry, and that they will be able to get a job. 

On the other side of the equation, we recognise that we also need to make sure our job seekers are well prepared for employment. That comes with its own challenges when often our jobseekers’ CVs don’t look like their peers — university graduates for example often haven’t had the same opportunities to gain work experience. That’s a challenge we up for and actively working on, for example with our schools programmes, tertiary programmes and internships. 

But ultimately what people need is the work — and the employers who will give them that opportunity.  
So, we want to say this to jobseekers: There are employers who want you. And to employers: We have the jobseekers, many with amazing degrees and qualifications and the eagerness to make a difference; we have the programmes and the supports tailored for your buisiness; and we want to talk. 
Blog published April 2019.
Written by Nick Ruane, New Business Specialist at Workbridge