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Internship program gives young graduates with -

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SHANE MCLEOD: Finding a job after leaving university or TAFE can be a tough prospect, even more so
in an economy still recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis.

Imagine then how hard it is to find a place in the work force if you're young and you have a
disability.

A national internship program run by the Australian Employers Network on Disability is working on
just that problem, helping university students with disabilities to get valuable work experience
with well known businesses.

Lucy Carter explains.

LUCY CARTER: Twenty-seven-year-old Liz Green now works for the Australian Human Rights Commission.
But getting that job was a challenge.

LIZ GREEN: I have lupus, which are Systemic lupus erythematosus. Basically it's an auto-immune
disease which means that my immune system attacks normal tissue in my body which means that I get
tired, arthritis, sensitive to the sun. Basically anything can happen. It's pretty unpredictable in
most people.

LUCY CARTER: In 2006 she was completing a degree in social science at Sydney's Macquarie University
when she applied for and won an internship through the Stepping Into program.

LIZ GREEN: I worked at the Supreme Court and I worked there every day for four weeks which was the
first time I actually realised that maybe I'd be able to have some sort of normal working life.

LUCY CARTER: Mark Lazaroo from the Australian Employers Network on Disability is the Stepping Into
program manager. He says most people don't realise the many forms that disability can take.

MARK LAZAROO: So disability can cover a sensory disability, vision and hearing, the whole area of
mental health, neurological conditions when people have an acquired brain injury. In Australia it
covers conditions so that can actually be chronic fatigue syndrome. It can be people who perhaps
are HIV positive.

LUCY CARTER: Stepping Into this year helped 39 students get month long internships at well known
Australian companies.

Mr Lazaroo says it's about giving young students with disability high quality work experience as
well as confidence in the workplace.

MARK LAZAROO: It helps them to confidently talk about their needs in terms of their disability.
Students become very good at saying these are things I need and they can talk about a work
experience where their needs were met well and they showcase their talents.

LUCY CARTER: And he says employers also reap the benefits.

MARK LAZAROO: If they've had experience through the Step Into program they feel much more
confident. They know the resources that are out there to assist them to make the adjustments and
they've usually had a very positive experience of a very talented young person with a disability.

LUCY CARTER: The Australian Tax Office is one company involved in the Stepping Into program.

Margaret Jamieson is the ATO's assistant commissioner people.

MARGARET JAMIESON: It's great for us because it helps us reflect the diversity of the clients that
we deal with by having people with a disability within the organisation.

Employees with a disability help us understand the requirements of all of our clients and which in
turn can lead to greater client satisfaction.

And we've also found that a diverse workforce has generated innovation in the workplace.

LUCY CARTER: Stepping Into program manager Mark Lazaroo says that in the current economic climate
all graduates need an edge.

MARK LAZAROO: The big thing is you really need to start early these days in terms of getting good
pieces of work experience while you're studying and also to really start thinking about the kinds
of employers you work for.

LUCY CARTER: Liz Green who held a Stepping Into internship in 2006 says it was invaluable.

LIZ GREEN: A lot of the time it's to do with who you know or what you've done and that could just
be a name on your resume. Certainly I felt more confident having been to the Supreme Court and
knowing that I did a good job and knowing that it was there and I've had that experience, that I
could talk about it.

If you just use every opportunity that you have it doesn't matter if you haven't taken the
straightest path towards, to where you've ended up, if you just keep chipping away at it ultimately
you'll get to where you want to go.

SHANE MCLEOD: That's Liz Green, a graduate of the Stepping Into internship program ending that
report from Lucy Carter.