Work provides dignity. With this in mind, an initiative by Aġenzija Sapport offers vocational training to people with disability. Joanne Cocks reports

More and more people with a disability are venturing out into the world of jobs, possibly encouraged by the initiatives available.

However, how well prepared are they? How easy is it for them to integrate at their workplace?

Various initiatives are available at present to make their life and that of their employers and guardians that little bit easier.

One such initiative is the INK project, a person-focused inclusion project, co-funded by the European Union, under the European Social Fund 2014-2020. The aim of this project is to focus on increasing the social inclusion of people with disability within the labour market.

Beneficiaries of the project also include employers, parents or guardians, and front-line professionals. Training sessions aimed at offering a better understanding of what an inclusive and holistic work environment entails is provided for participants. 

The INK project has a duration of three years and aims at targeting 1,000 individuals who are in direct contact with people with disability. 

Training is provided to four bene-ficiaries: people with disability, employers, front-line professionals and parents/guardians.

“The most comprehensive training given is that to people with disability. This training lasts for 32 weeks on a part-time basis and is split between formal (lesson-based), practical and transport training, followed by hands-on experience through job placements. Beneficiaries are also given an allowance throughout this time,” a spokeswoman for Aġenzija Sapport said.

“It has been shown that besides training and work exposure, those people with disability who are encouraged to seek employment by their parents or guardians stand a better chance at succeeding at the workplace. Based on this, the INK project gives due importance to the training offered to the parents or guardians,” she added.

The structure of training for parents consists of two discussion-based sessions of three hours each, whereby INK trainers provide a setting in which participants can share and discuss common concerns with other parents. 

They are also given information about the INK project and the ways in which it caters for the transition process of those entering the workforce. Communication, stress and burnout issues, which are regularly faced by parents themselves, are also tackled. Parents or guardians are also provided with information on existing support services available to them.

Training is provided to four beneficiaries: people with disability, employers, front-line professionals and parents/guardians

Parents have often expressed concern over encouraging their child with disability to enter the workforce due to no previous work experience or difficulties in finding employers willing to understand and accommodate their special needs. These sessions offer parents or guardians the opportunity to discuss these issues and understand what options are available.

After attending INK’s parent training, Godfrey Borg said: “The course was very well conducted since the difficulties faced by people with disability in finding employment and the effects on their families are identified and discussed, including the need to apply positive discrimination in getting people with disability adequate, supported and continuous employment, through national projects.”

This ‘parent’ training is not only open to parents of participants undergoingINK training, but also to any parent or guardian of a person with disability who would like to find out more about inclusion in the workforce and ease any concern they might have in this regard.

INK also offers training to employers and front-line professionals so that people with disability can experience all-round support and facilitate the experience. 

In less than a year since INK started its training, it has already given training or job placements to four groups of people with disability. Furthermore, INK has delivered free regular training sessions to parents or guardians, front-line professionals and employers. 

The project’s aim is to integrate people with disability into the labour market successfully, with the final target being that of retention, whereby both employer and person with disability have their needs matched. 

“The INK project team will continue to strive to make this transition as seamless as possible, break barriers and focus on abilities. Being able to work provides dignity, and everyone should have a right to do so,” the spokeswoman added.

Those interested in attending the INK project training should contact Aġenzija Sapport on 2256 8000 or by e-mail on eu.sapport@gov.mt. Further information or updates on the project may also be found on the Facebook page INKprojectmalta.

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