Bridgend College is supporting a Welsh Government campaign aimed at promoting the benefits of a diverse workforce and raising awareness of the support available to help businesses attract, recruit and retain disabled employees.

The further education college supports over 6,000 students and employs over 600 members of staff across its four campuses in Bridgend County Borough.

Having recently been recognised as a Disability Confident Leader, Bridgend College is leading the way as an inclusive employer by driving standards within its own networks.

Catherine Luff joined the college as HR Manager in 2017. She said: “When I first started, a key focus of my role was furthering the work of the College and embedding a culture of inclusivity. Our shared vision as a college is to create an environment where everyone can become the best version of themselves.

Situated between Cardiff and Swansea, Bridgend College found that prospective candidates were often drawn to job roles in the big cities, meaning they were losing out on talent.

The College’s HR team actively promotes itself as leader in inclusivity to encourage applications from disabled people including a social media campaign to target prospective applicants and advertising its Disability Confident Leader status on their job information pack.

They are also committed to providing a fully inclusive and accessible recruitment process by enrolling their interviewing staff in diversity and inclusivity training, as well as ensuring interview panels always include a member of staff who has been through safer recruitment training.

Catherine added: “Promoting our inclusivity offer was a great way to help us attract the best candidates by accessing the widest pool of talent possible. We are now able to benefit from a wide range of perspectives, experiences and skills that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

“It’s also really important for our students with additional, or different needs to see teachers that they can relate to, stood up at the front of the classroom. Whether it’s a lecturer or a member of staff who is supporting our students with their studies, they can relate to that person and start to see the different career pathways for themselves.”

There is a wide range of support and advice available to businesses to help attract, recruit and retain disabled employees so they can access the best talent.

Businesses could be eligible for funding of up to £60,700 through the Access to Work scheme, which helps cover the cost of any adaptations to enable a disabled employee to start or stay in work, as well as funding to help pay for any adaptations to the working environment or installation of any special equipment.

In addition to financial support, the Welsh Government has recently appointed a network of Disabled People’s Employment Champions to offer businesses free bespoke advice on how they can become a more inclusive employer, helping them attract, recruit, develop and retain disabled employees – creating a workforce that is representative and open to all.

When asked what advice she would give other businesses who wanted to become more inclusive, Catherine said: “It’s important to work closely with disabled employees to remove all obstacles and allow the individual to thrive in their role. It could be providing adaptive technology, offering flexible working opportunities or supporting an employee with mental health concerns.

“These adaptations are often easily addressed, which then allows you to draw from the widest possible pool of talent, secure high-quality staff, and improve employee morale and commitment. Inclusivity is one of the College’s core values; we are continually striving for this and we will individually work with staff to enable them to thrive and be all that they can be.

Bridgend College also work with Elite and Inspire to Work, organisations which support employees with additional needs into work through 26-week work placements. The college have so far supported four employees in areas such as Refectory, Day Nursery, Animal Care or Estates.

Karen, a disabled staff member at the college, says: “In the twenty years that I have worked at Bridgend College I have felt supported and valued. During this time, I’ve gained two further degrees and a Masters and my job has changed to maximise the use of my skill set. The college is passionate about its students and its staff, and I like to think that I’m one of those who has blossomed under this ethos. I have always encouraged people to apply to the college as a student, but even more so as a prospective employee”.

For more information on how your business can attract, recruit, and retain disabled employees, contact the Disabled People’s Employment Champions by emailing [email protected] or visit Skills Gateway for Business.

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