Clara became a PACE Mentor because she wanted a volunteering opportunity that fit with full-time work. As well as being extremely rewarding, her mentoring role has opened her eyes to a world of small adjustments we can all make to be more inclusive to people with disability.
PACE stands for Positive Action towards Career Engagement. The program, which is run by the Australian Network on Disability, connects jobseekers with disability to mentors from leading Australian businesses to improve workforce inclusion.
I decided to join PACE because I’d always done a lot of volunteering at uni, and I really missed it. Previously, I’d volunteered in education and I hadn’t had much experience of people with disabilities. I thought the program would be a great way to challenge myself. Having helped my friends with their own job searches, I felt it was an area where I could bring some value too.
Kicking goals with the Accenture social oztag team.
The short training program was great. We learnt about inclusive communication, not making assumptions and asking before helping someone. I was glad to discover I didn’t have to watch common expressions. It’s OK to say: “See you soon!” to someone with a visual impairment.
PACE is designed for people who work full-time, so the structure is really flexible. It’s up to you and your mentee to figure out when and how to meet – and what topics to cover. My mentee was still studying and doing exams. He wanted my help to fix his resume, do practice interviews and understand more about the world of finance, which is where he wants to pursue a career.
I found it easy to fit the program around work. It’s only an hour’s face-to-face meeting every few weeks or so for a duration of four months. I explained the commitment to my manager, and he was very supportive.
My mentee usually came in and met me at the office – and once came out to a client site to give him greater insight into the corporate world. I also reached out to one of my colleagues in Finance who was kind enough to spend an hour with him to give him a taste of what they do on a day-to-day basis.
As well as improving my mentee’s interview skills, I really tried to boost his confidence. I was astounded by how much work experience he already has. He has so much to offer an employer.
Learning was a two-way street. Each time we met, I became more and more aware of the micro-adjustments I could make to better accommodate those with disabilities.
Standing proudly by my mentee at the PACE program’s closing ceremony.
It was eye-opening to realise we’re more inclusive of people with dietary requirements than we are of people with disability. Every time you’re invited to an event with food, some asks about your dietary needs. But they rarely ask about your accessibility needs! An extra field on our event forms saying: “Accessibility requirements” is an easy way to make a big impact on being more inclusive– acknowledging that 1 in 5 people have some form of disability.
I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to get involved in this brilliant program. Not only is it really rewarding to see your mentee’s confidence grow each week, you’ll learn just as much and gain disability awareness and confidence too. Keep an eye out for the next round of volunteering. There are two programs a year. The Autumn program runs between April and August and the spring program runs between August and December. Let’s make accessibility part of our BAU!
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