Ready to work!

Many factors hamper people with disabilities who are trying to enter the job market. Thato Tinte looks at some exciting new initiatives.

People with disabilities are often still discriminated against in the world of work, with the employment rate of skilled people with disabilities not as high as it should be.

The Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA) in South Africa have continuously been criticised for not adequately addressing the skills development gaps that will assist the economy to grow. Many have, however, continued to work diligently to facilitate the supply of relevantly skilled people into our economy. The Health and Welfare SETA (HWSETA) is seen as among those SETAs who are making a difference.

Tasked with analysing the labour supply and demand requirements within the Health and Social Development sectors, the HWSETA is also responsible for encouraging the sector’s employers to participate in developing the skills of employed and unemployed persons.

Setting targets doesn’t always mean that they are achieved, however, notes Patrick Samuels, executive manager for Skills Development Planning at the HWSETA. He adds that one of the organisation’s biggest challenges is to overcome employers’ misperceptions about the range of disabilities they can accommodate.

“Our country also does not provide the necessary infrastructure in terms of full access to basic education and accessible public transport to help support people with disabilities,” he says.

Patrick Samuels, executive manager for Skills Development Planning at the HWSETA.

To help raise awareness and educate employers, the HWSETA consulted with the disability sector and published two guidelines, which they made available nationally and free of charge.

It also encouraged organisations registered with it to apply for funding for projects that help develop skills of people with disabilities. Furthermore, Samuels says the HWSETA Board made a decision to include representation from the disability sector, which helped board members to appreciate the value of projects that address the skills development needs of persons with disabilities.

Samuels is proud of the HWSETA’s initiatives in developing the skills of unemployed persons with disabilities and supporting employment opportunities. Some of the partnering employers involved in these “milestone projects” included the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), the Western Cape Department of Health, the Cape Mental Health Organisation and the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DEAFSA).

One of the many exciting projects was launched in 2013, where employers received funding to employ persons with disabilities for 12 months. This gave the candidates an opportunity to gain much-needed workplace experience. Subsequently, 10 learners were placed with the QASA – and six of them were later permanently employed.

The Western Cape Department of Health’s project resulted in the employment of 50 visually impaired people. Samuels says that the department amended its policies to allow for fair recruiting. An enabling policy framework was created to persuade management to consider persons with disabilities to fill vacancies.

Existing staff as well as the newly employed persons with disabilities were sensitised to one another’s needs and workshops were run on the mutual respect expected.

In the training initiative led by the Cape Mental Health Organisation, 100 mentally disabled learners were trained through a learnership in qualifications of Health and Hygiene and Business Administration and 98 percent of them graduated.

Through the DEAFSA initiative, 20 deaf learners took part in the HWSETA’s first deaf social auxiliary workers training programme. Samuels notes that the project was significant in that sign-language interpreters were used during the training.

As the HWSETA continues to raise the bar, Samuels gives this advice to the Rolling Inspiration readers, “Know that there are organisations interested in your welfare. ‘Be part of the change you want to see’ by joining an organisation within your area and becoming active in creating awareness for change.”

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