How AHEAD graduate placements are working to bridge the disability employment gap

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The WAM (Willing Able Mentoring) Programme is run by AHEAD, (Association for Higher Education Access & Disability), an organisation that works to promote full access to further and higher education and the world of work for people with disabilities.

There is almost a 30 percent employment gap between people with disabilities and those without according to the 2011 census.  The WAM programme is one way in which AHEAD works to bridge that employment gap. Employers on the programme offer paid, mentored, six month placements in their organisation to graduates with disabilities from the WAMworks database.

It aims to give graduates with disabilities the opportunities to enter, or re-enter, full time employment. Since the programme started in 2005, over 330 graduates with disabilities have been placed with employers of all sizes across Ireland.

WAM is unlike other internships or graduate jobs because of the mentoring element it offers to graduates and the needs assessment that is carried out before the graduate starts a placement.  These additions to a mainstream recruiting process help create a level playing field and ensure the right supports will be in place for a graduate with a disability starting out, or returning to the workplace.

“The WAM Programme is a great way for graduates to get their foot on the career ladder whilst empowering themselves with the knowledge of what works best for them in the workplace,” WAM Co-ordinator Caroline McGrotty explained, “Not only do our graduates get paid by the employer at the correct graduate entry level rate, but they are assigned a dedicated line manager and mentor who will have received training by the WAM team.”

Any graduate with a disability can apply for a placement on the WAM programme once they have registered on the WAMworks database (www.ahead.ie/wamworks). We encourage all graduates with disabilities, including specific learning difficulties and mental health difficulties, to register on our WAMworks database. Once you are registered you will be notified when placements are available and you can choose which you want to apply, once you meet the minimum requirements for the position. Placements are available in a wide range of sectors such as; engineering, science, business and administration and in major employers like ESB, Abbott Vascular, Dell and the Civil Service. Graduates who are registered on the WAMworks database will also get notifications of any employment preparation workshops such as CV clinics, interview preparation and many more.

“Graduates will also be enrolled onto our online mentoring course and undergo a needs assessment by the WAM team, who will assess what workplace supports they may need and make recommendations to the employer on their behalf,” Caroline McGrotty said.

The online mentoring course that graduates are enrolled on aids the transition into the workplace, and prepares graduates for life after their WAM placement. This course goes through topics like the mentoring process and its advantages, disclosing your disability, and how to successfully move on to the next step following a placement.

Graduates with disabilities can find out more about the WAM programme and register by visiting: https://www.ahead.ie/wam

Author: Hannah Kelly, AHEAD

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