Employers who exclude graduates with disabilities from job interview lists are missing out on a wealth of untapped talent, skills and creativity, the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) has warned.
According to the association's executive director, Ann Heelan, while many members of Ireland's business community acknowledge the importance of diversity and inclusion, ‘more must be done to action these ambitions and see the increased hiring of people with disabilities'.
"Preconceptions often prevent employers from embracing a diverse workforce, including those living with a disability, and this presents a huge missed opportunity," she insisted.
Ms Heelan made her comments at the launch of Building the Future, a careers fair aimed at students and graduates with disabilities.
The event, which is now in its eighth year, will give those attending face time with employers from both the public and private sectors. This will allow attendees to learn more about jobs that are available and supports that are offered.
There is also a practical element, with mock interviews, advice on CV writing techniques and a chance to receive a professional headshot, all on offer.
Several workshops will cover a range of topics, including how to prepare for an interview and how to use social media and personal branding.
Along with hosts, Citi, organisations in attendance will include the ESB, Accenture, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Public Appointment Service and the HSE.
"Building the Future represents an invaluable opportunity for potential employers and employees to connect and I would like to encourage students and graduates with a disability to register for the event and find out more about the wealth of placement and employment opportunities.
"I also call on organisations who are committed to hiring and integrating people with disabilities in their organisation, to make contact with AHEAD for information on what meaningful steps they can take to make a real difference," Ms Heelan said.
AHEAD works with employers to address concerns, help put in place inclusive hiring practises and to ensure optimum working environments.
"This is particularly important in the context of an ever-increasing number of third-level students with disabilities. Research undertaken by AHEAD shows that this number has risen by 62% over the past five years.
"Organisations should be aware of the unique benefits to be enjoyed through hiring practises that champion diversity. As well as bringing unique skills and experiences, a diverse team serves to create a more open and enriched organisational culture," Ms Heelan added.
Building the Future takes place in Citi, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1, on Friday, May 24, from 10am-2pm. Registration costs €5. To register, click here.
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