02/07/2008 - 22:00

Taking an inclusive approach

02/07/2008 - 22:00

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Organisations willing to tackle disadvantage and display their social conscience will reap positive long-term benefits across many layers of their operations, according to Workability's Keith Bales.

Taking an inclusive approach

Organisations willing to tackle disadvantage and display their social conscience will reap positive long-term benefits across many layers of their operations, according to Workability's Keith Bales.

Mr Bales, who is corporate development manager of the public benevolent institution, said companies that were seen to have a social conscience often built public trust and gained a competitive advantage.

"There's a lot of a benefits these days to being a good corporate citizen," he told WA Business News.

Over the past 20 years Workability has assisted more than 2,500 marginalised Western Australian clients to enter the workforce, from a network of more than 780 employers.

The institution is a specialist employment service that offers disadvantaged people tailored training and personal development programs, through initiatives such as life coaching, art therapy training, scholarships for university or Tafe, and a mentoring program.

Marginalised people of varying degrees receive assistance from Workability, including those suffering physical and mental trauma, people with HIV, immigrants, drug addicts and indigenous people.

To date, organisations including Coles, Chicken Treat, Officeworks and Hungry Jack's have used Workability as a resource to recruit staff.

Incorporated as EmTech in 1988, the institution moved from its premises in Mount Lawley to Brewer Street in Perth in 2003, and underwent a name change several years later to become Workability.

Mr Bales said despite the willingness of many companies to employ disadvantaged workers, Workability was frustrated by the vast majority of employers that seemingly could not overcome prejudice.

"A lot of these employers don't know how to handle them, they don't know how to handle someone who has manic depression, or suffers from anxiety, or is HIV and they say, 'well this is all too hard'," Mr Bales said.

"We tell them 'no, it's not too hard', and show them how to successfully integrate these people into their workplace."

Workability chief executive Michael Riou said for integration to take place, it was essential Workability received funding from the private sector.

He said Workability's program to help people enter the workforce during the past 20 years had made a significant impact on the state's economy.

"Many marginalised Australians still experience significant difficulties finding suitable employment, while at the same time a large number of employers struggle to find people with suitable skills," Mr Riou said.

"As a consequence, training and assistance have become crucial for the welfare of individuals, families and communities, and Workability is successful in playing its part for the economy."

Workability chairman Roger Payne said although the not-for-profit organisation had experienced sustained growth during the past few years, urging local companies to be more philanthropic would continue as a major focal point of the organisation.

"Another focus has been on the conservation of reserves while making prudent use to ensure Workability survives to continue providing services to our clients," Mr Payne said.

Workability receives quality assurance from International Standards Certifications Pty Ltd plus independent evaluation.

It receives funding from the Disability Services Commission (20 per cent) and the Department of Education and Training (20 per cent) and the remaining 60 per cent is from corporate supporters.

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