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Why employment can be a ‘pathway out of disadvantage’

11 September 2019 at 5:21 pm
Luke Michael
While some people dread coming into work every day, for Josh it helps motivate him to get out of bed in the morning.

Luke Michael | 11 September 2019 at 5:21 pm


Why employment can be a ‘pathway out of disadvantage’
11 September 2019 at 5:21 pm

While some people dread coming into work every day, for Josh it helps motivate him to get out of bed in the morning.

The 20-year-old – who has autism – is working at Sydney-based social enterprise Jigsaw, which trains and transitions people with disability into award wage employment.

He began training with Jigsaw while still in high school in 2017, and currently works as an office clerk with the social enterprise. He also occasionally does off-site contract work with different companies including Westpac and AMP.

Josh told Pro Bono News that Jigsaw provided him not only with his first proper job, but also the employment skills to ensure he was ready for mainstream work.

He said he enjoys learning new things every day and has a deep passion for the business.

“I love getting out of bed and coming here every day,” Josh said.

“Everyone’s so friendly and it really builds up my confidence and has been such a great place to work.

“It’s a great opportunity to do work for different types of clients.”

Social enterprises like Jigsaw will be better equipped to help Australians like Josh find work thanks to a new collaborative funding model led by the Westpac Foundation.

The foundation and nine other organisations – including Gandel Philanthropy, Social Traders, and MinterEllison – will invest $1.75 million in four employment-focused social enterprises to help create around 850 new employment and training opportunities over the next two years.

The funding will allow Jigsaw to expand its business to a second location in Brisbane.

Jigsaw will receive $200,000 over two years from Westpac Foundation, a $400,000 social investment loan over five years from The Bryan Foundation, and pro-bono legal services from MinterEllison.

Co-founder Laura O’Reilly told Pro Bono News this funding would help expand Jigsaw’s impact.

“This collaboration is going to enable us to open Jigsaw in Brisbane and support 150 people with disability to access training and employment,” O’Reilly said.

Recent research has shown social enterprises are delivering better job opportunities for disadvantaged Australians than mainstream employment.

O’Reilly said this was not surprising, given that social enterprises focused on helping vulnerable people overcome structural barriers to employment.  

“Social enterprises start with the intention of running a good business but also doing social good,” she said.

“This means there’s a higher preparedness to help people overcome the structural disadvantages that they face.”

The Bread & Butter Project, YMCA ReBuild, and STREAT are the other social enterprises benefiting from the initiative – with each organisation receiving between $350,000 and $600,000 in multi-year funding.

Westpac CEO Susan Bannigan said working more collaboratively with multiple funders and organisations helped reduce the “pain points” in the funding process for these businesses.

“They are able to work with a single point of contact rather than many different funding partners, and together we can streamline our support and leverage our networks to help these organisations have the greatest impact,” Bannigan said.

“There is a real appetite for collaboration to support employment-focused social enterprise. We welcome potential funders and organisations who also believe employment is a pathway out of disadvantage.”

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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