Disability Action Week 2017, which goes from September 10 to 16, is a good time to consider the opportunities and support available for employing people with disabilities in agriculture.
In the production horticulture industry, sourcing reliable labour presents a significant challenge for many growers.
One farm business in the Lockyer Valley – commercial vegetable seedlings supplier Withcott Seedlings – provides an example of how employing people with a disability can significantly help fill gaps in the workforce.
They source up to 125 staff through disability support service the Endeavour Foundation during peak times to clean trays and racks for their hygiene department.
With the support of the Endeavour Foundation, Withcott Seedlings has found employing people with a disability to be rewarding and beneficial to their business.
The types of jobs on farms are diverse and so are types of disabilities. The Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network (QAWN), which has several officers based with Growcom, has put together some useful information for people in agriculture business.
QAWN has found that, according to STEPS National Disability Coordination Officers, there are many benefits of a diverse workplace and employing someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Evidence has shown people with ASD and other similar conditions may take fewer days off, take less sick leave and stay in jobs for longer than other workers do. They may also have fewer compensation incidents and accidents at work compared with other workers.
QAWN also found employing someone with a disability may benefit farm businesses by building stronger relationships with customers, boosting workplace morale and enhancing teamwork, increasing productivity, bringing different talents, backgrounds and perspectives, broadening your scope to attract and retain talented staff and enabling you to link with external organisations for support and guidance.
Of course, many approaches are required to address labour shortage issues in production horticulture, but Disability Action Week provides an opportunity to think outside the box and reflect on our options.
For more information about support available to help farm business operators with disability employment, contact Karen George on firstname.lastname@example.org phone 0408 135 003.