A pioneering new initiative by leading charity Leonard Cheshire is set to transform employment opportunities for university graduates with disabilities in Northern Ireland.
The disability charity has launched their GradEmployNI programme, in partnership with the Ulster University Business School, which will match talented graduates with disabilities with employment opportunities in leading businesses across Northern Ireland.
Today marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and latest figures show that just 38 per cent of people with disabilities in Northern Ireland are in positions of employment compared to the national figure of 80.3 per cent of those who do not have disabilities.
Those with disabilities in the 16-24 age group are the worst affected by the employment and skills gap, meaning talented and skilled graduates often don’t get a fair chance of shining in the workplace.
From today business are being invited to sign up to become placement hosts and avail of the opportunity to become more disability confident and access a pool of talented high-calibre candidates that they may not reach through the traditional selection recruitment processes.
There is a separate process for graduates and those who make it through the interview process will be matched to their placement host following a four-week skills and training bootcamp delivered by the Ulster University Business School.
Placement hosts who sign up to the programme will be fully reimbursed to enable their graduate to be paid the National Living Wage for the duration of the placement.
Leonard Cheshire Ireland Director Fiona McCabe explained: “GradEmployNI is levelling the playing field for talented graduates with disabilities in Northern Ireland by matching their skills, qualifications and career goals with our GradEmployNI placement host business partners.
“There is a wealth of untapped talent amongst graduates with disabilities who are all too often overlooked in the recruitment process.
“The employment rate for people with disabilities in Northern Ireland is just 38 per cent with those in the age group of 16-24 worst affected by the employment and skills gap.
“We want to change this and are inviting businesses to sign up to become a placement host and improve their inclusiveness and create career opportunities for qualified and highly skilled individuals at no cost to their business.
“Leonard Cheshire will support our partners with bespoke training on disability and help businesses become more inclusive for people with disabilities.”
Professor Mark Durkin, Executive Dean of Ulster University Business School added: “Graduate employability is at the forefront of everything we do within the Business School and given today’s increasingly dynamic labour market, it’s so important that we continue to offer new learning opportunities and experiences that equip our graduates with the expertise and confidence to succeed in the world of work.
“This pioneering new initiative will provide recent graduates with disabilities a route into industry and employment through skills support and paid placements with leading employers, helping learners maximise their potential and move forward in their career journey. We are very pleased to be working with Leonard Cheshire to deliver this employability support programme and look forward to seeing the added value that learners and employers will gain.”
Ellen Watson, a final year BSc Marketing student, added: “The GradEmploy NI programme is an incredible opportunity for graduate students, who have a disability, seeking to gain invaluable experience working with Northern Ireland organisations. The programme provides free bespoke training which will help students transition into the working world with the opportunity to secure paid employment. This opportunity is one not to be missed.”
Businesses who are interested in becoming a placement host partner are invited to contact Leonard Cheshire at firstname.lastname@example.org