The event, which took place in Swindon on 23 October, is part of the government’s Disability Confident initiative which seeks to open employers’ eyes to the wealth of untapped talent available among disabled people.
Pledges have now been made by a variety of local employers who recognise the business benefits of hiring a diverse workforce. These include:
- Nationwide Building Society increasing the number of disabled candidates applying for their job roles, and maximising accessibility and inclusiveness at offices
- McDonalds offering work placements for disabled people in a new restaurant branch
- MLL Print ensuring that their next employee is recruited through a disability employment organisation
Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson MP, said
“This was the first ever Reverse Jobs Fair and the turnout was fantastic. 70 employers turned up to hear the value disabled people can play in growing their business.
“I want to see events like this up and down the country. We will follow up on all the pledges to ensure that real, tangible job opportunities are created for disabled jobseekers.
“Disabled people have the talent; it’s about giving them the chance to show it.”
The event – a ‘Reverse Jobs Fair’ – trialled a new format where local employers, rather than jobseekers, gathered to discuss their specific recruitment needs. This innovative approach was developed with the support of specialist disability work-providers Pluss and Shaw Trust. The goal of the ‘Reverse Jobs Fair’ is to meet the demands of employers and create lasting employment opportunities for disabled people.
Several hundred people attended the event, which was well received for the positive outcomes the event was set up to create.
Martin Kelly, disability services consultant, said:
“The Disability Confident ‘Reverse Jobs Fair’ has been very informative, very useful. It is a really good start to developing formative relationships between organisations who work with disabled people, employers and employees.
“I’m now much more confident in the Disability Confident concept and believe if we build from what we’ve been able to do with this event we can start to make inroads into that employment gap where disabled people are less likely to be employed than non-disabled people.”
Simon Billington, from social enterprise Seqol, said:
“We’ve been able to extend our reach to businesses we wouldn’t have usually been able to. This event far exceeded our expectations.”
Andrew Hargreaves, Group Manager, Service Delivery (Response) at Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said:
“I found the event extremely helpful and it provided me with a wealth of information about a good number of organisations. I was able to speak directly to key people about how they can assist Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service in its efforts to be a supportive employer of people with widely differing needs.
“I brought away some key contacts that enable our service to be far more proactive in its engagement with our diverse community.”
Following the Disability Confident event the Minister for Disabled People has been inundated with requests from other MPs, all of whom want to know how they can replicate the success in their own constituency.
While 339,000 more disabled people have moved into employment since the launch of Disability Confident, there is still a huge gap between the employment rate of disabled and non-disabled people. The government has set a target to halve the gap, getting a million more disabled people into work.
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