Following identification of a gap in skills of Disability Employment Services (DES) to work with graduates with disability, a collaboration formed between NDCO Region 19 (Gold Coast) and 22 (North Queensland), in discussions with JCU and Griffith University, to scope and develop a model of practice to pilot. This model has now scaled to 10 universities across 5 states actively involving 14 National Disability Coordination Officers – NDCO’s.

The 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey showed graduates with a disability have lower employment outcomes compared to other students with only 62.8% reporting full-time employment, compared with 73.5% of students without a disability (SWD) (QILT, 2019) p.7). Barriers include poor employer attitudes, lack of accessibility, and lack of specialised employment services (World Health Organisation, 2011). Anecdotally, low awareness of university careers services (Harvey et al, 2017) and Disability Employment Services (DES) may also be a factor (Swayn, 2017)

University Specialist Employment Partnerships (USEP) address this significant gap by co-locating a DES employment consultant within the careers/disability teams within universities.  This consultant is trained as a specialist in meeting the specific needs of graduating or graduated SWD seeking employment. They support SWD in their final year of study to help them prepare for the workforce, complete applications for graduate opportunities, and make key connections with employers who offer graduate and corporate roles. The program aims to: connect SWD with employment opportunities in a timely manner; promote strong linkages between stakeholders; and foster cross-referral and training of university careers and disability advisors.

Through USEP we are aiming to bring about systemic change, particularly in relation to students receiving timely and appropriate support through equity-focussed inter-disciplinary teams who understand the additional complexities that SWD face in gaining employment.  Our current data shows that SWD are studying a wide range of qualifications, mostly studying full-time and on-campus, and mostly seeking local, full-time, degree-related work after graduation. Only about half of USEP participants have had degree related work experience, and only a quarter have ever received support from a Disability Employment Service (DES) before. 

USEP was first trialled mid-2016 at Griffith University in a tripartite collaboration with National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Program and Mylestones Employment. James Cook University, University of Tasmania, University of Wollongong (UOW), Western Sydney University, Southern Cross University, Flinders University, the University of Western Australia, University of Queensland, and the University of the Sunshine Coast in conjunction with local DES providers have now taken up USEP. 

To be involved in this project or to learn more, please contact us via the USEP website for more information.