All abilities needed to solve WA skills shortage

Two men measuring a machine part.

Business and industry leaders must not overlook the valuable skills and experience of people living with a disability as they debate the best way to solve WA’s skills shortage.

Tomorrow Premier Mark McGowan and Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery will meet with leaders of business and industry to discuss strategies to address the State’s skills shortage.

Forrest Personnel Chair Iain Massey said there were more than 20,000 people living with a disability in Western Australia who were looking for work.

“These workers have a range of skills and must be considered as part of the overall solution to the skills shortage,” Mr Massey said.

According to the most recent statistics available on workforce and disability, more than 12,000 Western Australians living with a disability were unemployed and looking for work. A further 10,000 considered themselves underemployed.1

“People living with a disability are often overlooked for employment opportunities. This is reflected in the fact that the unemployment rate within this group is more than double that of those living without a disability,” Mr Massey said

“Yet we know that employing a person with a disability is not onerous for an employer – 88% of workers with a disability do not need specific arrangements from their employer to work.”2

Advantages for employers

Mr Massey noted national and international studies have shown that, when compared to other employees, people with a disability were equally productive, stayed with companies longer, took fewer sick days and were involved in fewer occupational health and safety incidents. They brought with them the added benefit of understanding the needs of the 1 in 5 Australians who live with a disability.

“If we are to address this skills shortage, then we cannot afford to see any skills or abilities go to waste,” he said.

“We are calling on those attending the summit to take a closer look at the capabilities of people living with a disability and actively include them in solutions to the skills shortage.”

Ben Aldridge, Managing Director of corporate training organisation 30 Foot Drop, agreed employers need to look at this talent pool.

“Just because a person has a disability does not mean they do not have the skills you need,” he said. “You may need to do things differently, but if you are looking at spending money to attract others into the region, then you’re already doing things differently.

“Look in your own backyard first. The advantages are there – the biggest stumbling blocks are around connection and understanding.”


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018). Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). Analysis of the Western Australia data set released 05/02/2020. Accessed 5 July 2021
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) People with disability in Australia. Accessed 5 July 2021.