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Vocational Training Outcomes for Disabled Graduates

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Overtime and going home late is now a work health and safety issue

A disability is defined as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses or activities”. A disability in humans may be physical, cognitive/mental, sensitive, emotional, developmental or some combination of these. Some people are born with disabilities, some develop them, and others are the result of accidents or misfortune. Whatever the cause, people with a disability still have the right to enjoy a high standard of living, and in many cases are still able to be highly productive members of society.

History of Highlighting Discrimination and Disability

One major issue affecting the success and life of those living with a disability is the discrimination they can face. Over the years this issue has caught global attention and actions have been taken to highlight the problem, with the intention of eliminating (or at least minimising) discriminatory practices. The United Nations proclaimed the year 1981 as the International Year for Disabled Persons, later re-naming it the International Year of Disabled Persons. The UN Decade of Disabled Persons (1983–1993) featured a World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons.

Throughout the 1980’s there was massive campaigning by disabled people, and their supporting organisations, to persuade successive governments around the world to introduce anti-discrimination legislation to enable disabled people to participate fully in the economic and social life of the community. Institutional discrimination has been evident in the policies and activities in many countries, and the sidelining of disabled people within organisations has been a common problem.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Discrimination against those living with a disability is a major concern and stringent, positive actions need to be taken against it. To achieve this end, two questions can be asked:

  1.  What are the barriers to acceptance of the disabled?
  2.  How can these barriers be broken down?

One of the major underlying issues is the insensitivity and lack of understanding in many parts of society.

In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act has made it against the law for someone to be treated unfairly because of their disability. The Act even covers people if they have had a disability in the past or may develop a disability; even if you’re able bodied but people think you have a disability.

The Disability Act covers:

  • –  Employment – including getting a job in the first place, promotions, training, terms & conditions and dismissals
  • –  Access to public places – ensures equal access to places like shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, parks and government offices
  • –  Getting or using services – ensures access to essential services like banking and insurance, transport and telecommunication, government department services, and even professional services provided by doctors, lawyers, and tradespeople.
  • –  Education – protects rights when enrolling and studying in public and private schools, colleges, and universities
  • –  Accommodation – covers issues when renting or buying housing

Vocational Training for People with a Disability

Vocational Training appears to be an increasingly popular choice for people living with a disability. In 2002, there were 82,305 people with a disability participating in vocational training which has increased to 124,812 in 2012. That represents a 4.3% annual growth rate in the number of disabled students, considerably higher than the 1.8% annual growth in students without a disability. Proportionately, disabled students now make up a larger percentage of the vocational study body; increasing from 4.9% of total vocational students in 2002, up to 6.4% in 2012.

Post-vocational training outcomes for disabled graduates

This increase in people completing training hasn’t translated to an increase in the rate of employment after training. The number of graduates with a disability finding employment within six months peaked in 2006 at 64.2%. Since then, it has declined and now sits at 52.4%. In comparison, graduates without a disability enjoy around an 80% employment rate, and it has remained relatively stable between 2009 and 2012.

It’s clear that job outcomes for disabled graduates are worse than the general population. The positive growth in employment rate experienced in the early 2000s peaked in 2006 and then outcomes have actually worsened for disabled vocational graduates. It’s difficult to draw conclusions from this data, but it indicates there is an issue that needs to be addressed.


Data drawn from the NCVER Students with a Disability 2012 report.


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