Fastrack into Information Technology (FIT)(click here to access the FIT website) is a representative organisation of the technology sector committed to growing Ireland’s tech talent pipeline. Working in close collaboration with national education and training provision, national and regional development agencies and community organisations, FIT’s mission is to promote an inclusive Smart & Sustainable Economy by creating routes to marketable technical skills for job seekers and career changers wishing to pursue quality professions in Ireland’s thriving digital economy. AHEAD (click here to access the AHEAD website) is an independent non-profit organisation working to create inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities. The focus of their work is further education and training, higher education, and graduate employment.
According to the CSO, in Ireland 22% of the population are people with disabilities. The Department of Social Protection has noted that there is a positive interest in working among people with disabilities in Ireland. Unfortunately, it appears that many barriers still exist to recruitment and success at work for people with disabilities. According to the European Disability Forum, people with disabilities are an often-untapped talent pool, with those of working age less than half as likely to be in employment as their non-disabled peers. This is despite figures showing people with disabilities access higher levels of education in ever-increasing numbers, across all fields of study.
AHEAD research shows that when employers think about disability, they think mostly about physical disabilities, when in fact, the vast majority of disabled people have a non-visible disability such as dyslexia, autism, a mental health difficulty or an ongoing medical condition. This misunderstanding means employers sometimes fear that the cost of providing supports for disabled employees might be prohibitive, when in fact, data from AHEAD’s WAM programme shows that two thirds of accommodations put in place do not incur any cost to the employer. Most involve relatively simple changes to work practices and many that do incur a cost are readily available within the organisation already (e.g., software).
In March 2021, FIT embarked on a ‘Shared learning experience’ with AHEAD to build on previous in-house activities exploring ways to increase access and inclusion to the workplace by enabling people with disabilities to gain a foothold in employment via a tech apprentice pathway.
Although quality data on participation in apprenticeships by people with disabilities overall is difficult to obtain, figures supplied by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science show the number of apprentices self-declaring a disability and in receipt of supports is low, at just 2.7% of the total number of apprentices. For context, the equivalent figure disclosing a disability and in receipt of supports in higher education is 6.6% of the student population, according to AHEAD figures.
Purpose of Collaboration:
- The main objective is to increase access & inclusion for apprentices with a disability by increasing employer knowledge & awareness around all aspects of best practice.
- To increase the number of individuals with a disability to apply for apprenticeships in Ireland, specifically the tech apprenticeships with FIT.
If you are an employer and are interested in discovering guidelines and best practices to strive towards a more inclusive workplace, more information is on the FIT website (Click here for information). As part of FIT and AHEAD’s activities a ‘Tips for Employers’ Sheet which highlights a variety of practices an employer can implement when supporting an apprentice (Click here for the Tips for Employers manual). If you are a person with a disability and interested in becoming a Tech Apprentice, please follow this link (Link for Teach Apprentice).