Work Experience Leads to Jobs

17 October 2011

Richard Bruce is often the first person you see at the entrance to Freyberg Pool. His job is to keep the 'front-of-house' looking sharp. It's a job he has done for almost 10 years - and pool manager Rowan Cordwell says that makes him one of the pool's longest-serving employees.

Long-serving employee Richard Bruce (right) with the manager at Freyberg Pool

Long-serving employee Richard Bruce (right) with the manager at Freyberg Pool

Richard, 31, from Island Bay landed the job with the help of the Emerge Trust, a supported employment agency, after doing work experience at school. He works at Freyberg Pool on Monday and Tuesday mornings and then heads across to Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre in Kilbirnie for the afternoons.

Richard also spends some of the off-duty time there too, swimming on Sundays and lifting weights. "I love it at the Council pools," he says.

Richard is one of three people with disabilities who have found jobs at the Council through the Emerge Trust. Elizabeth Mark and Philippa Wilson are employed in permanent part-time positions shelving children's books and audio visual resources at the Central Library.

Philippa, 26, and Elizabeth, 27, had their first taste of work at the library while they were still at Queen Margaret College through the Trust's transition programme.

Elizabeth has worked at the library for three years and when Central Library coach Bernice Dickie was recruiting to fill another vacancy, Philippa was the successful applicant. She started in April.

Elizabeth says she will often find a book in the wrong place. "The worst thing is when they put them in upside down especially in the children's section because the kids just put them anywhere."

Philippa is enthusiastic about reading and children's fiction. "I always wanted to work at the library," she says.

Emerge Trust is a charity that was set up in 2000 by a group of parents who were concerned about how their children would get on in the community once they left school. Eleven years on, Emerge Trust now provides a range of employment and transitions services for people with disabilities in Wellington.

Linda Fisher, operations manager at Emerge Trust, says the Wellington-based trust is very well known by people with disabilities looking for work, but less well known by employers. "We are currently supporting 70 positions - and we would have as many as that again looking for work," she says.

But she understands why employers might have reservations. "An employer has to know that they are choosing the right employee and it has to make economic sense. It has to make ethical sense. Don't just employ someone with a disability because it's the right thing to do; employ a person who is going to do your business good."

One in five people in New Zealand have a disability. That means employers using conventional recruitment methods are missing out on 20 percent of their potential employees.

People with disabilities have a higher than average education level. 48 percent have a degree, with half of these having a post graduate qualification.

If you think your business could benefit from employing someone through Emerge Trust, you can contact them on (04) 384 7456 or email:

enquiries@emergetrust.org.nz.