The Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) is developing the skills of people with disabilities in Fiji, to prepare them for entry into the workforce, and enable them to explore further technical and vocational training opportunities, through its Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways program.
Participants of the program have the opportunity to develop a range of skills including oral, written and numerical communication, as well as basic digital literacy skills over the next six months. These skills will enhance their employability and productivity in the workplace.
As an Australian Government initiative, APTC has a strong inclusive focus on ensuring equal access to training opportunities for all Pacific Island citizens including people with disabilities.
Australian High Commissioner, Margaret Twomey, said, “Australia is strongly committed to assisting people with disabilities in developing countries to find pathways out of poverty, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.”
As part of their training, participants will undertake work placement with national organisations to gain relevant work experience.
APTC Fiji Country Manager, Mr Jonathan Todd, says the course will greatly benefit the participants.
“This program will help facilitate the employability of students through work placement, and this will hopefully reduce the stigma around people with disabilities not being able to do certain jobs,” he said.
In 2016, APTC’s planning of a TVET program focusing on the development of skills of people with disabilities led to consultations with industry stakeholders such as the Spinal Injury Association (SIA) - an affiliate of the Fiji Disabled People’s Federation.
SIA President, Ms Mere Roden, who has worked as an Employment Liaison Officer for the Australian Government-funded IDEA (Include Disability Employ this Ability) initiative, that facilitated employment for people with disabilities, has been maintaining a database of disabled persons in Fiji, which has been very useful in identifying individuals to participate in the program.
“There are many challenges for people with disabilities, especially in terms of physical impairment and mobility. To be part of the workforce is not easy, but we believe that this program will build the capacity and confidence of people with disabilities,” she said.
“APTC contacted us last year to see if we were interested in a program which will be a pathway for people with disabilities to gain employment. It was a great way to collaborate and provide much-needed skills.”
Ms Roden, who is also a participant of the program, says she is very excited about the training.
“The interesting part about this training is that it is a competency-based model, which means I will get to practise and develop those skills and more. I am looking forward to constructive sessions over the next six months,” she said.
Another participant, Mr Jope Kikau says he is finding the training very useful.
“This is the second week of class and I am learning a lot. Currently, we are working on developing our skills in the different work areas that we want to go in to. We are learning some new competencies such as having the right type of attitude. I think this course will definitely help us in the future,” he added.
Training is being delivered face-to-face in English, with support from APTC’s Learning Support Facilitators, sign language interpreters and caregivers.
Classes are being held two days a week and learning outcomes include learning to use digital technology for routine administrative tasks in the workplace, planning and implementing strategies to enhance workplace efficiency, effectively communicating with others, and applying OHS requirements, policies and procedures in the workplace.
APTC offers Technical, Vocational Education and Training to students from 14 Pacific countries and has campuses in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.