Improved university staff training will inform and enhance careers support for students with disability, new research has found.
The study by Swinburne Access and Equity Career Consultant, David Eckstein, highlights opportunities and barriers in career support for university students with disability. Mr Eckstein is the 2020 National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) Equity Fellow, thanks to the support of Swinburne and funding from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
The key finding of the report is that overall, universities do not appear to understand how students with disability think about their careers.
”Instead of validating the concerns of students with disability and giving them the experience of inclusion, the current system may entrench disability as a powerful career-disabler,“ Mr Eckstein says.
Lack of understanding
”A lack of understanding of the way students with disability think about careers may undermine attempts to provide targeted careers support and adequately address issues that concern students with disability.
”The lack of accredited specialist training for careers professionals and the persistence of outdated notions of careers support in the broader university community indicate further service barriers.“
New funding model proposed
The study found that Disability Employment Service (DES) partnerships with university careers services are important; however, a new funding model may be required to ensure quality support.
”Existing DES funding arrangements mean that many have to restrict their services to students with disability who have graduated, or are in their final year,“ Mr Eckstein says.
The report recommends a new funding model for DES providers to compensate their investment in supporting university students with disability and to enable their engagement with students from the first year of their studies.
It also found regional universities faced greater challenges in providing targeted careers support for students with disability as there may be limited scope for developing local networks relevant to graduate employment.
NCSEHE Director Professor Sarah O’Shea says, ”The recommendations from the report have the potential to make a considerable contribution to sector-wide practice and policy.“
AccessAbility Careers Hub at Swinburne
Swinburne’s AccessAbility Careers Hub provides targeted careers support for university students with disability. It won the 2019 National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services Best Practice Award and an honourable mention in the 2020 equity awards from the United States National Association of Colleges and Employers.
The Hub was established as a co-curricular service and helps students with disability develop career management skills and secure degree-relevant work. The Hub is now progressing plans to embed inclusive practice in Swinburne’s work integrated learning experiences and continuing to build awareness with staff to support the accessibility agenda.
Read Mr Eckstein’s report ‘Meaningful jobs for students with disability: From luck to business as usual’