I was very lucky when my local MP, Chris Kelly, recognised the work that Evenbreak was doing and offered to sponsor a room at the House of Commons for an official launch reception. Keen to make the most of this fantastic opportunity I approached some wonderful speakers, and then invited senior HR and equality people from the kinds of large employers who already seem to be addressing diversity issues in the workplace.
The launch took place at the end of an extremely cold day in January, but despite this seemed to be well-received by everyone. There was food and drink and of course the opportunity to network with other inclusive employers in such lovely surroundings.
Then the speakers had their turn. Adrian Thomas, the Head of Resourcing at Network Rail (who have recently become Evenbreak’s corporate sponsors – see this blog) spoke about the need to reach out to different groups of talent in order to find the best people.
Then two successful Evenbreak candidates, who have both found jobs through Evenbreak, told their stories. Ian Pugh spoke about the frustration of employers not being able to see beyond his wheelchair, and how despondent constant unjustified rejection made him feel. Now employed by an Evenbreak advertiser who spotted his talents straight away, he feels he is contributing again and his confidence has risen significantly.
Similarly, Jean Eveleigh had felt destined to a lifetime of daytime TV when no-one was prepared to see beyond her disabilities. Finding work through Evenbreak gives her a purpose and a reason to get up in a morning (see this blog).
The final speaker was Dr Stephen Duckworth, a Director of Serco. Severely disabled himself he spoke about the importance of challenging pre-conceived ideas about what disabled people can and can’t do – expectations, and therefore opportunities, generally clustering in low status “entry level” types of jobs. I continued that theme by exploring what consitutes a “suitable” job for a disabled person, with the conclusion that all jobs are suitable for the right person, and there isn’t a job which no disabled person could do.
Guests included people from organisations such as Accenture, Asda, B & Q, BBC, BSkyB, Capita, Ernst and Young, Hilton Hotels, John Lewis, RBS, The Co-operative Bank, Unipart and many others. Feedback from guests was extremely positive (posssibly helped by the quantity of “House of Commons” wine consumed!), with many saying that some of their views had been challenged. A successful event indeed, but the real success will depend on how many employers start to use Evenbreak as an intergral part of the recruitment strategies. I’ll keep you posted!