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Is inclusion the solution to our skills shortage?

At our recent member meeting we had some great presentations including one from Karen Quinn about Triple A, a project which aims to facilitate positive and sustainable change – to raise awareness of the issues & challenges and to bring people together to create and develop solutions on how we integrate individuals with Autism in our community and workplaces. Here’s some of the data Karen shared:

  • There are 700,000 individuals in the UK with autism, of those 5353 are in Cumbria.
  • 3348 of that 5353 are unemployed and the majority want to work.

Today I attended an event organised by Inclusion and Diversity in Nuclear (if you’ve never attended any of their events I highly recommend them-they’re always insightful and useful) focussing on Neurodiversity in the Workplace.

This is an ever-increasing subject for discussion at the moment and is happening against a backdrop of headlines talking about shortages of HGV drivers, skills shortages in sectors as diverse as construction and food production and opinion from the government that industry has become reliant on cheap labour through immigration.

For me these two conversations are interlinked. Building truly inclusive cultures in our workplaces where people feel valued and safe (psychologically as well as physically) helps us recruit from a much larger pool of people and retain employees we would otherwise lose.

Triple A are working with Blue Star Recycling from America to replicate their success in employing people with disabilities by taking an individual approach to recruitment and retention. This approach puts the employers needs up front and provides support for both the individual and organisation to make sure the employment is successful. Blue Star recycling have achieved some fantastic, and perhaps surprising for some, outcomes:

  • Zero absenteeism since 2009
  • Less than 10% annual turnover
  • 0-1 lost-time accidents per year
  • 5.2 years avg employee tenure
  • 98% task-engaged on-the-clock

Now those are figures I know any employer would be jealous of! They also challenge a misconception that employing someone with a disability is harder or more expensive for an organisation-these figures prove that doesn’t have to be the case if the organisation puts in some upfront investment and effort.

These figures are only talking about people with autism, if we looked at the people with various disabilities who could work given the chance and the right environment it could go a long way to solving our skills shortages and making us a better society and community. That’s without even mentioning that Blue Star Recyling did a Social Return on Investment calculation by an external verifier that showed that on average getting someone with a disability into employment saves society £48k per year.

So we have a solution which could help solve the skills shortage, reduce the national debt burden and make people’s lives better.

What it needs is a huge shift in culture by businesses, organisations and society. A huge challenge.

The question is are we up for it?

Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

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