Published: 03 May 2017

Embracing diversity in the workplace

Employers want to hire people like Pokuru. He’s diligent, friendly, reliable and ready to learn. He believes in always doing your best and is open to new experiences. 

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But because the 21-year-old has Autism, he’s had to prove himself more than most people when it comes to securing employment. That is, until McDonald’s Werribee immediately recognised his potential.

Disability can impact on a person’s opportunities to participate in the labour force. People aged between 15 and 64 years with disability have both lower participation (53%) and higher unemployment rates (9.4%) than people without disability (83% and 4.9% respectively). Many individuals, like Pokuru, simply want the chance to prove their capabilities.

Wesley Employment Services was able to connect him with a company that believes in giving people with disability a fair go, and was prepared to nurture talent and invest in skill development.

Since starting with McDonald’s 18 months ago, the New Zealander, who is a Pathways to Employment graduate, has expanded his skills and has enjoyed meeting new people.

“I look after the dining area. I clean the floors and windows, empty bins and sometimes I make the chips and restock the milk for the café. I like getting to know the customers,” said Pokuru.

“If I see someone who needs help or is struggling to get through the door, I always go over to them and help them out.

“Everyone is really nice to work with. They are like my sisters and brothers. Maybe later on I will learn how to do other things like work in the kitchen.”

His mother, Manu, is proud to see her son’s independence grow over time.

“Sometimes he rings me on the way home and he’ll ask ‘do you need me to buy any milk or bread?’ or he’ll say ‘Mum, I want to take you out for dinner’,” said Manu.

“His confidence has really grown and he’s started to stand up to me now – he’s become more opinionated.

“Pokuru has always just had his Dad and I. Now he’s got friends at work. He has bought ice-cream cones for some of the older people who are regular diners, and every time he meets another Kiwi he says ‘Kia ora’ which means hello – he’s a very friendly person.

“He also received Employee of the Month – they’re really happy with him. He received a badge, which he wears every day to work.”

The proud mum wants employers who are yet to truly diversify their workforce to remember that everyone wants to feel part of their community.

“All everyone asks for is to be accepted and the only way they will feel this is if someone gives them a chance.”

If you’re interested to employ people via Wesley Disability Employment services, we’d like to hear from you on 0403 090 763.

As part of helping secure employment for people with disabilities, Wesley Disability Employment provides clients with interview training, job search support, job placement and regular access to a post placement job support worker to ensure employers and clients are supported throughout the journey.