Hft, the national learning disability charity, has partnered with the North Wales Together Learning Disability Transformation Team, Welsh Government Disability Employment Champions, Agoriad Cyf, James Lewis (citizen rep), Conwy County Borough Council, Denbighshire County Council to produce a toolkit and film to provide local employers with practical tips and advice to help them open up their recruitment practices to learning disabled people.
The toolkit, Tap into the Talent, was developed and funded by the Transformation Programme, a partnership between the six county councils and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. TAPE Community Music and Film was commissioned to make the film and the toolkit was designed by a local graphic design company, Graphicology Ltd.
Tap into the Talent is part of the wider work the programme partners are doing to improve the supported employment offer for learning disabled people known to social services in North Wales with the added benefit of helping to tackle skills shortages in the area.
Kim Killow, employment workstream lead for North Wales Together, says:
“We wanted to make a toolkit that had a North Wales stamp on it and promote the services of local supported employment agencies such as Hft and Agoriad Cyf to local employers. We made the film to bring the messages of the toolkit to life so that employers in North Wales could hear from other employers who have already tapped into the talent about their experience of employing someone with a learning disability.”
Julia Hawkins, Hft Flintshire’s Supported Employment Team Manager, says:
“People with learning disabilities are very motivated to work and employers with experience of employing learning disabled people have told us that, in the right job and with the right support, they make valued and valuable employees.
“The vast majority of learning disabled people really want to work but often aren’t provided with enough opportunities,” she explains.
Some of the reasons are the perceived barriers and myths that employers may have such as believing the costs of making reasonable adjustments would be too much and that there are only a few jobs that learning disabled people can do.
“The reality is that learning disabled adults can learn a wide variety of jobs with the right training and support. In addition, research has found that absence levels for learning disabled employees were 62% lower than for those considered not to have a disability,” Julia says.
Employers also highlighted regular attendance and staying in the job longer as major benefits of employing people with a learning disability. On average, people with learning disabilities stay in their job 3.5 times longer than other employees.
The Tap into the Talent toolkit is designed primarily for companies new to employing learning disabled people or for bigger companies with branches that haven’t yet employed them. Julia reports that anecdotal evidence has already shown that there is an increase in staff morale among employers who go down this route as learning disabled adults are so keen to be at work that they encourage non-disabled employees to feel good about their roles too.
Among the tips included are how to make interviews more accessible, how to advertise more broadly as learning disabled people may not see job adverts in the usual places and how to produce an easy read application form. There is also advice on preparing for your new employee’s first day, being inclusive in the workplace and managing other employees’ expectations.
In addition, Hft and Agoriad Cyf have an Employer Offer for those businesses willing to consider taking on someone with a learning disability. This includes support with job matching, supporting in the interview and induction processes, on the job training, and providing Disability Awareness Training.
Robyn Williams, Operations Manager at Agoriad Cyf, says:
“People with learning disabilities can provide a real contribution to the workplace, bringing strengths and abilities that employers can benefit greatly from.
“Agoriad is very proud to be part of this collaboration to produce the Tap into the Talent toolkit. It has resulted in the creation of a resource that will enable clients with learning disabilities to have the support they need to reach their potential in the world of work.”
Askar Sheibani, Chair of the Deeside Business Forum, says:
“The business community in North Wales is facing major challenges with shortages of available workers. This is causing severe bottlenecks with their output and service delivery. If this shortage of workers continues, we can say goodbye to any economic recovery and growth.
“The sad fact is that Wales has nearly 250,000 disabled people and the vast majority of them are eager to be trained and work. This is an untapped human capital and we must help them to help our businesses and economy. I am very pleased that Hft and other organisations are working together to tackle this major economic and social issue by launching this great initiative.”
Hft’s supported employment programme already supports about 90 people in 130 companies but such is the skills shortage that it is looking to increase this. Plans are under way to expand into Wrexham and the team is attending a skills event at the end of October to publicise its offering.
The toolkit is free and unique to employers in North Wales and will enable those businesses following the advice and guidance to apply for the Disability Confident Employment logo.