About graduates with disability

Large, progressive companies are proactively recruiting people with with disability to their workforces through graduate programs. Graduates with disability represent an ever growing pool of talented applicants coming through Australian universities.

A 2018 analysis by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) highlighted a 50 percent growth in students with disability at university from 2013-2018, with the total number of undergraduates with disability reaching 55,565.

This growth presents an excellent opportunity for all employers to set up recruitment practices and processes that welcome this group of people, in order to maximise the human potential of their workforce.

Companies like Microsoft have been thought leaders in this arena, recognising early on that people with disability represent a valuable part of the community the organisation serves, and that the richness of perspectives and life experiences add value to product creation in ways that money can’t buy.

Recruiting people with disability: Four key strategies

With that in mind, here are four key strategies an organisation could adapt when recruiting people with disability through their graduate programs:

Clear and early messaging from graduate recruiters

A study in the UK of over 1,000 graduates with disabilities highlights that this cohort are concerned about advising a potential employer of their disability. This lead them to being unlikely to do so.

Organisations can and should clearly articulate to applicants what happens when a disability is shared on the application or throughout the assessment process.

Clear, plain messaging about this builds the applicants’ understanding and expectation that this is ‘business as usual’.

No special places or processes for graduates with disability

When it comes to recruiting graduates with disability, it isn’t necessary to set up a separate, specialised recruitment process.

If the process is built with enough adaptability and flexibility in the ways and methods of assessment and onboarding, there is less need for applicants to request reasonable adjustments throughout the process.

A welcoming and inclusive culture can ensure that the onboarded employee feels safe, respected and included as any other applicant.

Multiple means of assessing the applicant

Traditional recruitment has followed a long standing process of interviews, assessment centres and at times psychometrics.

If, when building the onboarding process, recruiters focus on the skills required for the role and not the person, much of this becomes peripheral.

During the application process, employers could consider creating space for the applicant to best show  they have the required skills to do the work.

This could mean that instead of hosting a panel interview for a data analyst role, the applicant is provided with a work sample and asked to produce an output that is directly related to the expectations of the role.  

Beyond the front gate: building disability confidence

Organisations should make considered investments in staff development when it comes to understanding people with disability and society’s role in creating environments that are accessible.

This understanding can be built across the organisation – not just the recruitment process.  

Supports for recruiting people with disability through graduate programs

There are a number of national initiatives and programs available to support organisations to become more disability confident when onboarding applicants.

To start, employers can utilise free disability awareness training from theNational Disability Coordination Officer Program or JobAccess, as well as seek specific disability employment advice by engaging with the NDRC through a 12 month partnership.

University Specialist Employment Partnerships, a project developed by the NDCO, is active at a number of Australian Universities, in partnership with Disability Employment Services.

The project has specialist consultants working with talented graduates who are seeking graduate roles that are commensurate with their study, and is free to work with. The consultants are available to connect graduates with organisations who are actively recruiting people with disability.

This article was originally written by David Swayn, and featured in a 2020 Job Access newsletter for employers.