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The Biggest Barrier to Employment is Loss of Hope

Podcast Interview with GM of Operations of ON-Q Disability Services Steven Pitkin

I recently had the privilege of speaking with the General Manager of Operations of ON-Q Disability Services, Steven Pitkin. Steven has been in employment Services for about 16 years and started off as an employment consultant managing a caseload and doing reverse Marketing. Pretty soon, he moved his way up the ranks into management, operations and leadership. For those that may not be aware of what disability employment services is, it’s a government-funded contract that focuses on assisting people who may be disadvantaged back into employment. The employment provider does all they can to assist this person, from helping them get job-ready by referring them to external services that may assist them with their mental health, language skills, educational barriers, etc. Or the consultant can simply help their clients with their resume, interview techniques, and confidence. But one of the most important aspects of the role is going out into the community and marketing the individual to local employers in order to help them into sustainable employment. When I first approached Steven on LinkedIn about being a guest on this podcast, he said yes straightway and responded with this profound message. “Hi Rana, thanks for reaching out. I believe it is more than a social responsibility, it is a basic human right that all people with a disability should be given an opportunity for open employment.”

During our podcast discussion, Steven told me that he believes that one of the biggest barriers to getting employment is the loss of hope.  “I think, one of the biggest barriers I believe to employment is hope. You know when that hope goes, then the depression kicks in, the anxiety kicks in and all other barriers to work. It’s not just not having recent work history, but it's that confidence and hope in finding work.” Steven says. When I asked him about incentives for the employer, Steven tells me that he believes that offering wage subsidy should be the last thing a DES provider offers, as there’s an array of benefits of hiring someone with a disability’. “When you look at hiring someone with a disability, the advantages of that are huge. The diversity in your workforce, can really attract new customers.” Steven explains. He then went on to say, “Because, with one in four Australians with a disability, that’s one in four customers, that have a disability. And if you’re not representing the community in your workforce, there may be some customers that you’re not attracting.” Steven continues that people with a disability manage their disabilities well because they’ve had to live with their disabilities perhaps their whole lives. They may need a bit more support, but studies show that people with a disability are more loyal and can even boost morale. Steven explains that one of the top challenges that he and his staff face is usually that first employer conversation. Because they are reverse marketing a person, and have to go into the conversation knowing their client’s strengths and abilities.

Steve says, “One of the main things about reverse marketing is to understand their business. I think if you take the time to understand the business that you’re approaching, whether it’s a little bit of pre-work, or actually whether it’s about when you’re face to face with the employer, I think it’s important to ask that employer about their business, you may have done that research online, but talk to that employer.” Some other things we spoke about: Being upfront about the person’s disability from first employer contact.

  • Client not showing up to the interview.

  • What advice he would give to his inexperienced self 16 years ago.

  • How things have changed in Employment Services over the years.

  • What would he tell an employer that is hesitant to hire someone with a disability.

Click here to connect with Steven on LinkedIn. Click here to find out more about ON-Q Disability Services

If you would like to be interviewed for our Employment Services TV Channel/podcast in order to raise awareness about employment services and what you do, please contact to express your interest.


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