The Ministry for Primary Industries teamed up with the Universal College of Learning to hold apiculture taster courses for people with disabilities. Photo / MPI
The agricultural sector is being encouraged to re-think how jobs can be done and hire more people with disabilities.
MPI, in partnership with Universal College of Learning (UCOL), recently held two apiculture taster courses for people with disabilities at the Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre in Wairarapa.
UCOL apiculture teacher Peter “PJ” Ferris wanted farmers and growers to give young people with disabilities a chance.
“These kids have the ability to do jobs. All we need is the general workforce to give them a chance.
“You know they’re going to turn up, and you definitely know they’re going to be loyal to their employers.”
People with disabilities were capable but often marginalised, Ferris said.
His daughter had cerebral palsy and had been employed for 20 years.
Ferris said people with disabilities were keen to learn and courses such as these instilled the confidence needed to take the next step.
MPI director for investment, skills and performance, Cheyne Gillooly, said people living with disabilities faced many hurdles when it came to getting a job.
Labour market statistics showed that New Zealanders with disabilities were three times less likely to be employed than non-disabled people.
Gillooly said one in five disabled people were employed and less than half of disabled people aged between 15 and 24 were in education or training programmes, compared to 10 per cent for non-disabled youth.
“There are a lot of roles in our food and fibre sector which are suitable for people with disabilities, a group of people who are often overlooked when it comes to gaining employment.”
MPI workforce advisor Claire Hill said the programmes at Taratahi were “about showcasing what they can, rather than what they can’t, do”.
She encouraged food and fibre sector employers to be “disability-confident” and make use of the support and services available.
“A lot of disabilities can be invisible,” Hill said.
“There’s a huge range of disabilities. People recovering from long-term injuries, for example, who may not identify as disabled, or those with long-term managed health conditions, mental health barriers, and neurodiversity.”
Hill believed the barriers to employment could and should be lowered for people with all types of disabilities.
Agriculture employers keen to become “disability confident” workplaces are encouraged to contact MPI on email@example.com.