WISE Employment finds great ability in disability

STANDARD recruitment practices are continually getting sub-standard results today, according to experts in the field at WISE Employment.

All too often, standard recruitment practices act against consideration of highly qualified and experienced applicants – who can offer enormous value to a business – because they may have a disability, according WISE. 

“Quite often, the standard recruitment process of online resume submission, phone screening and panel interviewing either doesn’t allow for a true reflection of a candidate’s skills, or becomes overwhelming for someone with a disability who may be the perfect fit for the role,” WISE Employment Victorian regional manager Doreen Micallef said. She said WISE was a not-for-profit employment agency specialising in assisting people with a disability and it monitored the market closely.

“As a hiring manager you will always be looking for the best fit and this certainly still applies,” Ms Micallef said. She often asked the question, “Have you taken the time to consider whether your hiring process could be improved for the better by taking into consideration how people of different abilities can get their skills across to you in the best way?

“We often find that employers are not aware of the benefits of bringing candidates from both the Disability Employment Services (DES) and (Department of Employment) ‘jobactive’ programs into their workforce,” Ms Micallef said.

“Job seekers with a disability are very enthusiastic about gaining meaningful employment, and will often have a lower rate of sick leave and a higher engagement and dedication to the job.

“Having an employee with a disability on your team can also affect positive change on other staff members, creating a great working environment. Employers also report similar benefits for candidates employed under the ‘jobactive’ program, which caters for the long term unemployed, mature age and refugee job seekers amongst others.

“Just the simple act of gaining employment can really change job seekers’ lives, with increases in self esteem and confidence leading to job satisfaction and improved retention rates.”

WISE Employment National Disability Employment Sales Manager Souzan Asfour said a point often raised by employers was the potential cost of employment of a job seeker who may need higher levels of assistance, or workplace modifications, to complete their job. She said these issues were catered for through the government programs.

“Under both the DES and jobactive programs, we support both the employer and the job seeker in the preparation of the workplace for their employment, at no cost to either party,” Ms Asfour said.

“The support continues once employment has commenced, until both parties are happy to go it alone.

“This could be in the form of personal support, funding for modifications and training or simply just a check in process with both parties,” she said. “Whatever support is required in each individual situation, you know WISE will be with you every step of the way.”

Ms Micallef said she always reassured employers that candidates were not asking for preferential treatment, “or for you to change the inherent requirements of the role, but to be given the opportunity to showcase their suitability in a way which will allow them to truly shine”.

As a not for profit, WISE Employment offers its services “completely free of charge to employers” Ms Micallef said.

WISE opened its doors in West Melbourne in 1992 and Ms Micallef said today its highly-trained and dedicated staff provided cost-free advice, training and other support to assist more than 10,000 eligible job seekers into jobs each year.

WISE Employment operates through  at 40 main offices and 57 part-time and outreach offices across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory




Alibaba founder sets up UON scholarship

THE University of Newcastle (UON) believes it has established a groundbreaking scholarship program, made possible by the philanthropic support of Alibaba founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, through the Jack Ma Foundation.

The Jack Ma Foundation will give US$20 million (AU$26.4 million) to fund this first-of-a-kind scholarship program at UON – and it all boils down to a friendship he struck up with Novocastrian Ken Morley on an Australia-China Friendship Society visit to Mr Ma’s hometown of Hangzhou, China. 

Now Mr Ma’s creation of The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program, the largest philanthropic commitment in UON’s historyand the Jack Ma Foundation’s first philanthropic contribution in Australia, will pay tribute to Mr Ma’s close personal connection to Newcastle.

When Mr Ma was a teenager, he met Ken Morley while the Morleyfamily were on that Hangzhou tour.

Mr Ma said Mr Morley went on to become a highly influential figure in his life, instilling core values and a global perspective that positively impacted Mr Ma’s future and contributed to his personal success. The men remained close friends until Mr Morley’s death in 2004.

“I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth,” Mr Ma said. “The culture, the landscape and most importantly its people had a profound positive impact on my view of the world at that time.

“To honour the experience and the special relationship I formed with the Morley family, the Jack Ma Foundation is delighted to announce The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program that will inspire, educate and cultivate tomorrow’s leaders.

“Alibaba was built by young people and we are committed to lifting up and empowering students so they can reach their dreams and ambitions.”

Mr Ma was joined by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, UON chancellor Paul Jeans, UON vice-chancellor Caroline McMillen, and Mr Morley’s son, David Morley, to announce the scholarship program in Newcastle. 

Professor McMillen, said The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program at UON would have a transformational impact on the lives of students and shape the next generation of leaders.

“Through this remarkable friendship spanning decades, a new generation of talented students will have the opportunity to reach their full personal and professional potential,” Prof. McMillen said.

Unique to the Australian higher education sector, she said The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program would help establish a long-lasting community of scholars and provide them with a comprehensive engagement and enrichment program to develop key networks and friendships, “as well as experience important practical training to equip them for leadership in the global environment”.

“This scholarship program will exemplify the shared values between Mr Ma and Mr Morley, and aims to develop the next generation of globally aware and socially conscious Australian leaders,” Prof. McMillen said.

Students will be selected based on their interest and commitment towards cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and peace; social justice and equity; fairness and ethics in entrepreneurship and industrial relations; and sustainable development, including environment, conservation and renewable energy.

Reflecting UON’s commitment to providing excellence and equitable access to education for anybody with ability and determination, the scholarship program will also focus on supporting students from disadvantaged and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

“I am particularly delighted that this program will enable students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access educational, professional and cultural experiences that might otherwise be out of reach, and that it will support the development of a new cohort of Indigenous leaders.” Prof. McMillen said.

In its initial year, The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will support 30 new UON scholarships, 20 scholarships to support students throughout the duration of their degree, including access to a unique and comprehensive engagement and enrichment program, and 10 one-off scholarships to support educational exchange, internship or immersion activities.

When the program reaches full capacity, it will support 90 students per year.

David Morley, who still lives in Newcastle, said the family were “really happy to see Jack remember his Newcastle connection” and to be honouring their dad’s egalitarian values through this generous scholarship program.

“Dad would be extremely proud of Jack’s commitment to making a difference to students in our hometown, and so touched that their close friendship has led to this program, which will transform the futures of hundreds of University of Newcastle students, to hopefully do good things in the world,” David Morley said.

The first round of The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will be advertised in mid-2017 for students commencing their first year of an undergraduate degree at UON in 2018.



VET-FEE replacement scheme starts

THE Coalition Government’s replacement for what it calls “Labor’s failed VET FEE-HELP scheme” started on January 1 2017.

The previous system had been subjected to rorts by a range of registered training organisations (RTOs), of which several major companies folded in late 2016 leaving students stranded.

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said the new VET Student Loans program was designed to support students to undertake industry-linked and value-for-money courses at quality training providers. 

“The Turnbull Government’s VET Student Loans program incorporates the lessons learnt from the disastrous VET FEE-HELP scheme that the Auditor-General highlighted last month,” Mr Birmingham said.

“VET Student Loans includes a range of new measures to protect students and taxpayers, address skills shortages and ultimately restore the reputation of the vocational education sector.

“Labor’s 2012 VET FEE-HELP changes opened the floodgates to shonky providers who ripped off vulnerable students and taxpayers but the new safeguards we’ve put in place mean students can have confidence that the training they are receiving is aligned to workplace needs and strong employment outcomes, and is being delivered by training providers who have met the tougher benchmarks we have set,” Mr Birmingham said.

“The support the government and taxpayers will provide through VET Student Loans will help Australians get the right skills and education they need to find a career that combines their passions with long-term job prospects.”

Mr Birmingham said thousands of VET FEE-HELP students had already opted in to the new program and all training organisations which had applied had been assessed and notified whether they could deliver courses through VET Student Loans during the transition period to July 2017.

“Since we outlined the details of VET Student Loans in October, the Turnbull Government and the Department of Education and Training have been working to ensure a quick and smooth transition from Labor’s failed VET FEE-HELP scheme for the training sector and for affected students,” Mr Birmingham said.

“Already more than 26,000 students have opted to finish their course under VET FEE-HELP, and 193 training organisations have been granted provisional approval to deliver courses under the new program until the end of June 2017.

“We are still actively contacting VET FEE-HELP students who have not completed their course and have yet to indicate if they wish to be grandfathered.  I encourage any student who was a part of the VET FEE-HELP scheme to get in touch with us before they resume studies in 2017 and no later than March 31 to ensure they continue to be supported to complete their study.

“Applications are also now open for training organisations who want to offer VET Student Loans to students in courses from July 1, 2017. Providers have until February 19 to apply and will need to demonstrate a strong track record of delivering high quality training and achieving employment outcomes for students.

“These stringent requirements will ensure that only high quality providers, committed to delivering high quality training and strong employment outcomes for Australian students, employers and taxpayers will be approved.”

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ACS computes Qld’s ‘digital solutions’ draft curriculum

THE professional association for Australia’s information communication and telecommunications (ICT) sector, ACS, has backed and helped to shape the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment authority’s Digital Solutions draft curriculum.

The draft curriculum aims to modernise education and tertiary entrance systems to account for the impacts digital disruption is having on the future of jobs.

The Queensland Government’s draft QCAA Digital Solutions Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) curriculum was presented at ACS’s  inaugural Access IT Conference in Brisbane recently. 

Exclusively presented as part of the Education Panel on day two of ACS Queensland’s AccessIT Conference – which brought together key leaders in ICT to discuss its future, as well as showcase Queensland’s growing global hub of ICT businesses, talent and industry collaborators – it was concluded the initiative would better prepare today’s youth for the hugely disrupted workforce in the years ahead.

The new Digital Solutions curriculum is a complete overhaul to the existing ICT courses being taught at schools currently for year 11 and 12 students. 

“As a computer science course it has great potential,” ACS Queensland state manager Ross Medina said. “It has a comprehensive coding focus in unit one (of four units), and other coding related areas such as design, user interface (UI), addressing user requirements (UX), which is good to see. 

“Unit two looks at applications and data, while unit three looks at the critical topic of the practical application of IT, from the internet of things (IoT), to robotics, game development, computer generated media and virtual reality,” Mr Medina said.

“Finally, Unit Four will consider the impact of the digital, with coursework focused around security, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning.” 

He said the coursework would be comprehensive and give students with and without aptitude for coding a baseline understanding of the roles that they might have in future STEM-based career paths.

The ACS has also made recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of the program:

1.    An increased focus on ethics. With automation predicted to replace over 40 percent of jobs in the next five to 10 years, the ongoing discussion around human values and ethics needs to be kept top-of-mind, and taught at an early age.

2.     The Digital Solutions draft prescribes Problem-Based Learning as the active approach. The ACS recommends this to be complementary to Real-World Project-Based Learning. Taught exclusively, Problem-Based Learning risks providing insufficient critical thinking, complex communication and creative thinking skills. Grounding the program better in the real world will also help motivation and engagement levels.

3.     The addition of coursework in the development of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) would be a good fit for the syllabus.


Mr Medina said, “The biggest issue that we see with the module is not an appropriate course for the majority of senior students. Based on the current enrolment figures for Information Processes and Technology, we cannot expect more than 10 to 20 percent of students to enrol in this currently non-mandatory subject.

“Comparing mathematics in the new ATAR curriculum, we have four subjects to be offered: Mathematics Essentials; Mathematics General; Mathematics Methods; and Mathematics Specialist. Under a similar classification we could see these as Mathematical Literacy (Essentials); Mathematical Fluency (General) and Mathematical Mastery (Methods & Specialist). This clearly caters for the range of skills and aptitudes, and even to some degree, student interests and future career aspirations.

“In very stark contrast, the QCAA will be offering only a Digital Mastery course, yet no courses within the ATAR set of subjects,” Mr Medina said.

“Why, in an increasing digital world, based very strongly on IT, are we looking at offering four maths; four English and four science subjects to cater for this range of skill development; aptitudes and interests, but only one IT subject?”