“This is something we are really proud of.” – Northern Co-operative Meat Company Ltd

Friday, 23 March 2018

It is often challenging for people with disability to break into the workforce, but one local business is leading the charge in workforce diversity after hiring eight people with disability. Booyong Service Processing (Booyong), a business division of Northern Co-operative Meat Company Ltd (NCMC), has teamed up with disability employment organisation EPIC Assist (EPIC) to provide new work opportunities for people with disability.

“It’s easy to hear the word ‘disability’ and overlook people, but we believe people’s different abilities can be an advantage. Everyone deserves to be given a chance,” said NCMC CEO Simon Stahl.

The eight new employees make up almost 10% of the total Booyong team, and have been working across different areas of the business. Simon says the partnership with EPIC, which commenced in April 2016, developed from discussions with former Booyong employee Matt Lee, who now works with EPIC.

“Engaging with EPIC and hiring people with disabilities has been very positive. Matt has been instrumental in the process, and he and the EPIC team have put forward reliable and hardworking candidates that have become valued members of our team,” said Simon.

A BBQ event was held at Booyong on Thursday, February 23rd, to celebrate the success and achievements of this initial program, and reflect on the great outcomes. It also provided the opportunity for staff members to enjoy a chat and a bite to eat.

Nathan Mackney started at Booyong three months ago in a grounds maintenance role, and is particularly enjoying the physical nature of the job.

“I’m knackered at the end of the day, but in a good way; I enjoy working outdoors,” said Nathan, who often backs up his day of work with a session of rugby training.

His strong work ethic has been recognised by his managers and EPIC support staff, who say Nathan is often so intent on getting the job done, he needs to be coaxed away to take a break. He is pleased to hear his work is appreciated.

“Kris [Elliott, plant manager] said I can get an extra day’s work if I want, so I must be doing something right,” smiles Nathan.

“If I’m not working, I get bored and get myself into trouble. It’s much better to be working and having that extra bit of money.”

There’s no doubt having a job leads to greater independence and the ability to reach goals. For some, like Denis Mullane, it also provides the opportunity to support his young family. Denis is deaf and was accompanied by an Auslan interpreter at the BBQ.

“I’ve got a wife and three kids aged 15, 8 and 5, as well as an older son and grandkids in New Zealand, so it’s been great to get back in the workforce,” explained Denis, who was out of work for five years before starting in the boning room at Booyong.

“I wake up at 4am, have a coffee, read my book and then come to work. It’s nice to have that structure back in my day, and my family is really pleased that I have this job.”

For Jesse Richardson, his new role provides him the chance to see more of the world.

“I’ve been able to save for a trip to New Zealand with my brother and his wife, which wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have this job,” said Jesse.

“I like working here because it keeps me busy, I earn money and it also gives me more of a purpose.”

As part of this partnership, EPIC adjusted the interview and orientation process to meet the needs of the new starters, ensuring each person was matched with a fitting role.

“The initial interview is less structured; more of an open conversation. We then organise work experience for 1-2 days, and if everyone is happy, the person is employed,” said EPIC Employment Consultant Matt Lee.

“After they commence, EPIC provides all the on-the-job support the person needs to feel comfortable and confident in their role.”

Mr Stahl says he looks forward to continuing this productive partnership with EPIC.

“Our senior managers have been closely involved throughout this employment process. It is really rewarding to watch them become comfortable and make working relationships with fellow workers,” said Mr Stahl.

“This is something we are really proud of. It’s worked for us, and I would absolutely recommend other businesses take action in hiring people with disability.”