Changes aim to strengthen ties

SPECIALIST employment agency Workbridge has rebranded and appointed a new manager to strengthen links with major employers.
The not-for-profit organisation works with people with disabilities, injuries and illnesses which affect them for six months or more, providing pre-employment training, job placements and postemployment support.
Z Energy service station owner Selwyn Cook, of Hamilton, was appointed brand ambassador three weeks ago. Mr Cook, chief executive Grant Cleland, of Wellington, and southern manager Shane Blows, who is based in Nelson, visited the Invercargill branch last Thursday.
Mr Cook will work for Z Energy two days a week to assist retailers and suppliers to employ more Workbridge job seekers. The rest of his week will involve liaising with other companies already part of Workbridge’s large employer strategy to better understand their needs and to encourage them to employ more staff with disabilities.
Mr Cook said after several years of employing staff through Workbridge he was ‘‘very excited’’ about ‘‘knocking down false perceptions’’ among employers.
Many had the mindset a disabled employee was a lesser employee than an able-bodied person, he said.
‘‘Over the past three years I have employed over 85 of Workbridge’s job seekers, and many others from the disability community. That mindset is a nonsense, to be truthful.
‘‘It was actually good business. The placement of staff with disabilities reduced a lot of those workplace frustrations… with staff turnover. Employees with disabilities actually stayed longer, had less absenteeism and took fewer sick days. Many needed less support than the socalled able-bodied people.’’
Mr Cook said he calculated the cost of finding, inducting and training a new employee was $2000.
‘‘So reducing that cost has a huge impact on [a business’] bottom line.’’
Mr Cleland said Workbridge consultants last year assisted more than 3400 people into new jobs with more than 2000 employers.
But there were an estimated 228,000 people with disabilities not in employment, including a growing number with tertiary qualifications, and 74% of them wanted ajob.
‘‘It’s a huge untapped market for employers.’’
Mr Blows said many disabled people did not want to be on a benefit.
‘‘They want to be self-sufficient, in charge of their own lives, and to go to work and enjoy their job. I think that is why they are more loyal employees with less absenteeism.’’

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