Keywords: Austria, Switzerland, Germany, vocational training, higher education, job coaching, consultancy services

myAbility Talent Programme

The myAbility Talent® Program is the first career program for companies and students with disabilities and chronic illness. The participating Talents receive coaching as preparation for their career entry and the opportunity to get in touch with interested companies through events. For the companies, the program is an effective tool to gain know-how in the field of inclusion and to employ more people with disabilities in the long term. The focus is on potential, strengths, and performance, not on disability. The main benefits of the project are i) the participating companies get to know qualified, future employees and recognize which basic conditions are important when hiring people with disabilities and how they can shape them, ii) the career opportunities of the talents will be sustainably improved.

About the practice at a glance
Name of OrganisationmyAbility Social Enterprise GmbH
Type of organisationSocial business
Country
of Implementation
Austria, Germany, and Switzerland
Year started2016
Funding modelSelf-financing.

The project is entirely self-financed by the participating companies. For these companies, the program offers other benefits such as sensitization, advice, support, and recruitment opportunities, for example to cover the current shortage of skilled workers. When entering new markets, we try to generate subsidies. The participation for the Talents is free of charge.

IMPACT

Impact and growth 

Since the start of the program in 2016, 130 students with disabilities and 45 companies have participated and completed programs. Of these, 52 Talents have started work or have received offers. 

In the current programs, another 55 Talents and 29 companies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland are participating. 

  • 2016: 20 Talents, 5 companies, 4 successes (start of work or received offers from Talents)  
  • 2017: 20 talents, 7 companies, 6 successes  
  • 2018: 20 talents, 9 companies, 6 successes  
  • 2019: Project scaled to Germany (Munich and Berlin) – 70 Talents, 24 companies, 36 successes  
  • 2020: further scaling in Germany: Frankfurt and Hamburg (postponed to the end of the year due to Corona), scaling in Switzerland (Zurich) – 55 Talents, 29 companies, successes will only be visible at the end of the year, as no job shadowing has been done so far 
Innovation 

We create points of contact between people with and without disabilities at eye level.  

These are:  

  • persons with disabilities who, due to prejudice and frequent rejection, usually try to hide their disability as much as possible,  
  • and company representatives who, because of a deficit-oriented image of persons with disabilities, often (unconsciously) have prejudices against persons with disabilities. 
Target group 

The target group of Talents: “students and young academics with disabilities and chronic disease”. All forms of disability or chronic illness are included.  

Beyond that we reach companies (personnel departments, managers, and employees), universities, associations, and other organizations (as multipliers) 

Other outcomes 

Our goal is 

  • to show companies the potential of university graduates with disabilities in the context of job shadowing and  
  • to illustrate the added value of professional inclusion; 
  • to reduce reservations about people with disabilities  
  • to create incentives for companies to create or improve barrier-free conditions, especially when it comes to recruitment.  

THEORY OF CHANGE

We asked projects to outline their impact model (also called Theory of Change) – their main target groups, the key activities they offer these target groups, and what impact they want to achieve:

Target GroupActivityImpactIndicator
Talents (students with disabilities or chronic illnesses)Individual career coaching & skill building workshopsStrengthen self-confidence and thus increase their career opportunitiesFeedback from the participants
Number of job showings and possible follow-up offers
Executives and HR managers in companiesRaising awareness in “company meetings” Create points of contact with PwDRecognizing the potential of people with disabilities
Recognition of special abilities that may result from the disability
Enabling a barrier-free application process and working environment
Feedback from the participants
Number of job showings and possible follow-up offers
Initiation of a change process in the company use of advice from us
Employees – job shadowing companionsRaising awareness in workshops for job shadowing companions
Create points of contact with PwD
Reduction of fear of contact
Breaking down barriers
Feedback from the participants

REPLICATION EXPERIENCE

We have already replicated our innovation 

So far, the project locations were chosen according to the aspects of the location of larger companies and universities. The controlling and processing were done from Vienna. To address the Talents, we looked for partners who would support us locally in this work. This means activities such as addressing potential cooperation partners, displaying flyers, postings in social media, etc. When implementing the projects, we always took the following steps: 

  • Conception phase with adaptation to the new market: In order to guarantee the success of the program in the new region from the start, after the concept plan has been drawn up, the needs of the two main target groups (companies and talents) and the establishment of collaborations will begin (possible cooperation partners are, for example representatives of disability associations, those responsible for integration or universities). 
  • Piloting the program: The second phase includes a test run of the new program. At the beginning the effort for activities such as company acquisition and preparation, networking with universities, recruiting talents, establishing cooperation, etc. are significantly higher.  Adjustments are necessary for the long-term establishment of the program. It is considered a successful pilot when enough companies and talents participate in the program and rate the program positively. 
  • Evaluation and standardization of the concept for the rollout: After the implementation phase, the entire project is reflected on through an evaluation of companies, employees and talents and if necessary, revised and adapted. In terms of sustainability, it is of essential importance that the myAbility Talent program not only achieves social change among all target groups and stakeholders, but also finances itself through the participation of the companies. This is to be ensured through an annual implementation of the program in the respective region, as has been the case since 2016 in Austria, since 2019 in Germany and since 2020 also in Switzerland. 

The aim is to get funding from the participating companies. In the development phase / piloting, we are looking for financial support to absorb the significant additional effort at the beginning, which means, for example, foundations or other financial support. 

Results: 

  • The program is currently running for the fifth time in Vienna
  • For the second time in Munich
  • Berlin starts for the second time in winter.
  • Zurich is currently running for the first time.
  • In Hamburg and Frankfurt, the first round will also start in winter.

For all ongoing programs, dates have already been set for another round and the corresponding steps have been initiated. We see the need in all regions so far and the very positive feedback from our talents and the participating companies prove that we are right. 

Lessons Learned: 

1) Planning is an important part of the transfer. However, since many opportunities and risks only become apparent in practice, the project should first be piloted on a small scale before it is rolled out. And then it is important to readjust the transfer concept regularly. 

2) Building stable partnerships is essential: 

  • with cooperation partners at universities, student representatives & communities; through good relationships, recommendation and advertising of the program, inclusion in their newsletter, notices, UniScreens, … 
  • with resident companies as customers. When they see the added value, they become long-term partners who sometimes also promote the program internally 
  • the students are also important multipliers. Through informal recommendations, we will also find good talents in the following years 

3) Get to know the Do’s & Don’ts, e.g. in the language. What is the common language in the respective region, what is a No Go? Our experience shows that there are sometimes clear differences 

4) Getting to know the cultural differences in cooperation that are already evident between Austria and Bavaria 

COVID-19 showed that some parts can also be covered digitally well, therefore a partly digital program, which is not limited to a regional area, is also possible. 

ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY AND STRATEGY

Capacity 

There is an existing team of 5 that looks after the various current locations. In addition, we have various regional partners who support us locally. It is currently planned to add one more person to the existing team. Further human resources can be added if necessary, but that depends on our scaling strategy! 

The program is financed from the contributions that companies pay to participate. We try to generate funding for pilot projects to cushion the significant additional work involved in entering the new market. 

We have a project owner for this program, with the necessary skills and seniority 

Katharina Schweiger, MA, responsible for project management, the high quality of our projects, structuring, documentation and scaling in other regions. LinkedIn-profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/schweiger-katharina-b1a006b4/ 

Strategy 

Our strategic goal is to expand our impact across Europe. The aim is that the employment rate of people with disabilities in Europe corresponds to that of people without disabilities. Scaling the myAbility Talent program is a clear focus in the leadership team. 

We want to establishing and expanding cooperation partnerships and win contact persons in companies as fellow campaigners for the cause (e.g. insurance company participates in Munich, internal promotion of the program, now also participation of the Vienna and Zurich branch. Further application of the now large program in all branches world-wide is also taken into consideration). 

MOTIVATION

Holding the talent program at several locations in Austria, Germany and Switzerland is a good basis for successful implementation in other locations as well. The very good feedback from Talents and the partner companies motivates us to continue expanding the unique program. An expansion to other locations in German-speaking countries and across the EU is desired. 

This also results in the benefit of a cross-border comparison over time, from which further future-oriented measures for both politics and business can be derived. 

Our resources are fully utilized with the existing programs. Due to the good feedback and the effects, we would like to continue scaling the project. Therefore, we have to make a decision on how to plan for further scaling. For this we need support – we hereby apply for. 

What is the organisation hoping to learn from taking part in the programme? 

There are many questions to be answered for the further scaling of the program: 

  • Which new locations do we want to address? – on the one hand in the German-speaking area, but also across Europe  
  • Finding local partners, cooperations and local funding opportunities 
  • How can the further scaling look like – which strategy is the most suitable for us with its respective advantages and disadvantages? 
  • Development of a scaling vision for the next 5 years, including a step-by-step plan  
  •  Integration into our existing structure 
  • How can the quality be assured? 
  • What other creative ways of scaling can we find? E.g. digital scaling – the opportunity in the COVID-19 crisis: companies that have been sceptical about digital solutions until now have to face the challenge now, we see opportunities in this aspect