Bridging the gap
Napier Courier, 30 September 2009
When new Workbridge CEO Grant Cleland came to visit Napier branch for the first time this month, to see first-hand what the region has to offer to Workbridge clients.
Workbridge is a professional employment service for people with all types of disability. Grant has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair for mobility. When he speaks of disability and equal opportunities in the workplace, he speaks from experience � both lived and professional. Grant is visiting all 28 Workbridge offices nationwide, talking and listening to staff, getting a feel for the organisation and the regional differences.
"I'm talking to the teams about what we can do to meet regional needs and get more people in jobs," Grant says.
The Napier branch of Workbridge covers Hawke's Bay, from Wairoa to Dannevirke, helping clients with a wide range of disabilities to find work that suits both them and their employers.
These disabilities can range from a client having asthma or being partially deaf to clients in wheelchairs, those with mental health issues or intellectually disabled.
"We focus on what our clients can do, not what they can't," says Workbridge Hawke's bay/East Coast manager Tony Weitenberg.
"We help then use the skills they have, matching clients to suitable work situations."
"There is no cost to clients or employers who use our service. Workbridge can also finance equipment that some clients need to help them succeed in the workplace and provide support to get them established."
According to the 2006 census, only 25 per cent of people with disabilities need extra support, Grant says.
"Of those, 16 per cent need flexible hours and only three per cent need special equipment or facilities. Often employers have a fear of offering employment to disabled people, thinking they will need a lot of additional support. It's important to us to dispel that fear."
Clients and employers can be referred to Workbridge by agencies such as ACC or can make their own contact with Workbridge.
"Workbridge employed me because of my skills - the weren't concerned by my wheelchair. We want other employers to do the same," Grant says.