Graduating soon? The transition to employment can be tricky. For Inform, JobAccess explores how to navigate the move into work and the supports and services available.

Making the switch to employment after completing tertiary education is a challenging time for many young graduates. Research shows that graduates and students with disability experience unique barriers during this transition, resulting in lower employment and under-utilisation of skills compared to graduates without disability.

Most of these barriers stem from limited exposure to work experience opportunities, misconceptions among employers about graduates’ skills and gaps in knowledge and support provided by tertiary education career services.

JobAccess General Manager Daniel Valiente-Riedl discusses the range of supports available and provides helpful tips graduates can apply in their job search.

When do I start looking for a job?

You can start at any time during your studies. Making an early start can be beneficial as it will allow time for you to research the labour market, establish professional connections, acquire workplace skills through internships and understand the supports you can access in the workplace if required.

Where can I go to discuss my employment prospects?

Speaking to a career counsellor or meeting careers services at your school or university may be a good starting point. They have a range of preparation resources to help students in their search for employment.

The Australian Government also funds a range of specialist services that support people with disability to find and maintain work, including Disability Employment Services (DES).

DES providers assist individuals at all stages of the employment process, from getting ready for the job search, the job search itself and providing support upon starting a new job. They can also help with negotiating and setting up any workplace adjustments needed.

Are there any internship or mentoring programs for students with disability?

Yes, there are internship and mentoring programs designed specifically to support students with disability transition into employment. These include:

  • The Stepping Into program by the Australian Network on Disability (AND) – a paid internship scheme that matches university students with disability with roles in leading Australian businesses.
  • Positive Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) – a mentorship program also delivered by AND that connects students and jobseekers with disability with mentors from leading Australian businesses.

Should I discuss my disability with a potential employer?

According to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), there is no legal obligation for you to share information about your condition with the employer unless it affects your ability to do the job, impacts your safety and/or the safety of your co-workers.

Mentioning your disability can create trust and an open relationship with your potential employer and co-workers. It allows you to talk about how you will perform your tasks to the necessary standards and discuss any workplace adjustments that may be required to help you do your job.

When discussing my disability, what information should I share with the employer?

You only need to provide information about how your disability may affect your ability to do the job safely. You should mention any medications you take that may affect your ability to work safely. But You do not need to talk about other medical or personal issues.

Remember, if you do mention your disability to someone at work, they cannot tell anyone else about it unless you permit them to do so.

I’ve often heard the term ‘workplace adjustments’. What are they and do I need them?

Workplace adjustments are changes to the work environment that allow employees with disability to work safely and productively.

These can include adjustments to work methods, such as providing additional training or mentoring or adjusting tasks. It can also be adjustments to work arrangements, including changes to working hours, for example switching to part-time hours, starting and finishing later or time off work for rehabilitation programs.

Other adjustments may be making changes to workplace equipment or facilities, including the provision of additional software or equipment, such as voice-activated software or ergonomic equipment, or making workplace documents accessible.

If the employer is aware of an employee’s disability, legally they must provide what is regarded ‘reasonable adjustment’ to accommodate the needs of the employee. The employer may get help to cover the cost of making reasonable workplace adjustments through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF). You can print an information sheet about the EAF and consider discussing it with the employer at the interview.

Most people with disability will not require significant adjustments in the workplace, and many will require no adjustment at all.

Are workplace adjustments expensive?

The majority of workplace adjustments are low cost while some changes, such as providing flexible working hours, involve no cost at all.

In addition to reasonable adjustments that may be provided by employers, the Australian Government provides financial assistance through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) to help cover the costs of making workplace adjustments. The EAF can assist you if you are about to start a job, are already employed, or are self-employed.

If you are a jobseeker who requires Auslan Level 2 assistance or who requires work related assistive technology or special work equipment to look for and prepare for a job, the EAF may also be able to assist you.

Who can apply for funding for workplace adjustments?

If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can submit an EAF application. You can also:

  • ask a friend, relative or advocate to help you with your application
  • work with your employer to submit an application
  • ask your DES, jobactive or Community Development Program provider to help you submit an online enquiry to JobAccess, or
  • call JobAccess on 1800 464 800 and get a JobAccess Adviser to help you to submit an application.

Are there any other resources to support graduates with disability?

Yes, you can get in touch with the following programs for support:

  • National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) program: The program is specially designed to help people with disability succeed in their chosen studies and move into suitable employment. The program’s officers can help you find out more about your post-school options, support you to participate in education or training, and also guide you into the sort of career you’ve trained for at university or a technical college.
  • University Specialist Employment Partnership (USEP): USEP is a partnership between your university and a local Disability Employment Service (DES) that delivers free on-campus employment services. These services are specifically aimed to meet the needs of graduating or already graduated students with disability seeking employment. Currently, the USEP program operates in 10 universities across Australia. Visit their Current Partnership’s page to see if USEP is available at your university.
  • E2E (Education to Employment) Toolkit: The Toolkit is designed for graduates with disability as well as employment and career services assisting finishing students and recent graduates with disability of Vocational Education and Training or Higher Education courses.

Good luck with your search, and remember, you don’t have to go it alone. JobAccess is here to help!

For more information and additional resources, visit www.jobaccess.gov.au or speak with a JobAccess Adviser on 1800 464 800.

Ready to read more? Try these Inform links:

Media narratives of disability must change

Navigating disability as a tertiary student: a how-to guide

How the Employment Assistance Fund can help you at work

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