The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is encouraging employers to become “disability-confident” as it strives to enhance inclusivity in New Zealand’s food and fibre sector.
MPI, in partnership with Universal College of Learning (UCOL), recently held two apiculture taster courses for people with disabilities at the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in Wairarapa.
UCOL apiculture teacher Peter ‘PJ; Ferris wants farmers and growers to give young people with disabilities a chance.
“These kids have the ability to do jobs. All we need is the general workforce to give them a chance. You know they’re going to turn up, and you definitely know they’re going to be loyal to their employers,” he said.
Mr Ferris said people with disabilities are capable but often marginalised. His daughter has cerebral palsy and has been employed for 20 years.
They’re keen to learn and courses such as these instil the confidence needed to take the next step, he says.
MPI director for investment, skills and performance, Cheyne Gillooly says people living with disabilities face many hurdles when it comes to getting a job.
Labour market statistics show that New Zealanders with disabilities are three times less likely to be employed than non-disabled people.
Gillooly says 1-in-5 disabled people are employed and less than half of disabled people aged between 15 and 24 are in education or training programmes compared to 10% for non-disabled youth.
“There are a lot of roles in our food and fibre sector which are suitable for people with disabilities, a group of people who are often overlooked when it comes to gaining employment,” Ms Gillooly says.
MPI workforce advisor, Claire Hill says the programmes at Taratahi are “about showcasing what they can, rather than what they can’t, do”.
She encourages food and fibre sector employers to be “disability-confident” and make use of the support and services available.
“A lot of disabilities can be invisible,” Ms Hill adds.
“There’s a huge range of disabilities. People recovering from long-term injuries, for example, who may not identify as disabled, or those with long-term managed health conditions, mental health barriers, and neurodiversity.”
She believes the barriers to employment can and should be lowered for people with all types of disabilities.
If you are a disability confident employer, or want to know more about what that means, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org