Here at Be. Lab we are deeply committed to shifting the dial for the 1 in 4 New Zealanders living with access needs, and we are excited to see businesses expressing their commitment to make change.
On Wednesday 7th July we co-hosted a breakfast with Westpac New Zealand, exploring the opportunity of embracing accessibility. There was a fantastic turnout, with representatives from over 30 organisations across a range of industries and sectors. It was exciting to feel the enthusiasm and energy for change in the room.
Westpac acting CEO Simon Power opened the event and spoke about the work Westpac has done in the accessibility space to date, including their partnership with Be. Lab through our Tertiary Internship Programme. We are excited that six of the nine interns that Westpac have hosted from our Tertiary Internship Programme are now permanent Westpac employees!
We were delighted to hear Westpac's commitment to doing even more in this space, with Simon Power saying: “The challenge for us today as an organisation is to look at what more we could do, and to take that challenge up,”.
Be. Lab founder Minnie Baragwanath, who is now leading the Global Centre of Possibility (GCOP) @ AUT, spoke about the cost to society of the high unemployment rates for people with access needs. With only 22.3% of people with access needs in employment (and this figure unaltered over the past 10 years) the cost to the New Zealand economy is significant.
Conversely the social and economic benefits for New Zealand to become the most accessible nation in the world are enormous. Recent research from Impact Lab NZ shows a 480% return on social value of just one of the Be. Lab employment programmes.
Minnie challenged us all to consider what is possible, and to ask ourselves, if we are to unlock these benefits, “are we doing enough?”.
It was fantastic to hear from two of the nine awesome interns Westpac have secured through our highly successful Tertiary Internship Programme, Amy and Tiare spoke about how the Be. Lab employment programme was game-changing for them, and has allowed them to find careers they love at Westpac. They both expressed how they have thrived within a culture that recognises their strengths, and values the unique contributions they have to make.
Melinda Brown, who facilitates the interns at Westpac spoke about how the programme has added real value to their workforce, and the incredible calibre of interns.
“We’ve had some amazing people join our business thanks to this programme,” Mel says. “My hope is that in the future we can take many more. Making sure our business is accessible to everyone in our society is incredibly important.”
Westpac’s experience confirms what research shows-access talent have skills such as persistence, agility, willingness to experiment and problem-solving, that 21st century employers are looking for, and access citizens make great employees.
There are some practical steps that your organisation can take today, and our Be. Lab programmes are here to make it easy for you to join this growing group of leading employers who are committing to unlock the benefits of accessibility.
We invite all businesses to get in touch to learn about how we can connect you with awesome diverse talent, and work with you to explore the benefits of creating accessible cultures and environments within your organisation.
Be. Lab is here to help all New Zealand businesses on their journey to greater accessibility. Join us, together we can create an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone can thrive.