Labour economist says that being disability-inclusive makes good business sense

Friday, 20 September 2019

Robert Sobyra is a self-confessed numbers guy.

As Director of Evidence, Data and Innovation for Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) he knows that the numbers around disability and employment don’t stack up.

Which is why when a family member who works at the Australian Tax Office told him about her positive experience with a specialised recruitment program for people on the autism spectrum he saw an opportunity for CSQ.

Robert’s new team member, Liam has almost completed his first six months in the role and now has a new sense of independence and self-control.

When Liam was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome 15 years ago, his parents were told that he would never be able to hold down a job and that he would be dependent on them for the rest of his life.

Now that he has a job Liam, just like many young men in their early 20s, is looking forward to moving out of home into his own apartment.

Robert explains that Liam talks about how important having a job is to his sense of independence and being self-sufficient.

“It all comes back to being meaningfully employed and making a contribution to the world. As a labour economist myself I don’t think there’s anything more important than that,” Robert said.

Robert connected with Liam through specialist disability employment service, EPIC Assist.

“What EPIC has allowed us to do is to really understand how to accommodate and adapt to the needs of the people coming into our organisation,” he said.

“We came into this thinking we’d have to make significant changes, but it’s turned out that it has fitted in with our workflow quite neatly.

“There’s a really strong business case for building diversity in teams.

“If you take an industry like engineering, where employees are mostly male, white and older and throw in women, people from diverse cultures or people with disability into the mix and you suddenly find that the team becomes much more creative and effective,” Robert said.

“An increasing number of children are being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

“If we as a society can’t work out how to accommodate them in the economy then we’re going to have a big problem,” Robert said.

Liam himself has a clear message for employers.

“There’s definitely a job for everyone. We Asperger’s people are very smart in our chosen field. Don’t underestimate us. Ever.”

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