Each year, OC Connections, one of Victoria’s most trusted disability support services, provides life changing opportunities to hundreds of participants.
OC Connections offers a range of specialised and innovative employment services across Melbourne, from supports in employment, career planning and goal setting, to skills training, job placement and work experience opportunities. Overall, 110 people are employed by OCC’s enterprise arm. The roles vary from IT & office-based work to labour hire, while some get specialised support at their workplace via an ‘open employment’ stream.
Now, with the support of Jobsbank, OC Connections Enterprises (OCCE) are getting ready to test an innovative pilot in Melbourne’s west.
In 2016, OCCE developed a unique carwash service – a waterless system that uses environmentally friendly and biodegradable products. The system gave the OCCE team flexibility to work on site at their customer’s premises, providing a fully mobile fleet cleaning system.
“If I had to describe it with one word, I would tell you the project has gone gangbusters!” says Steve Betinsky, General Manager of OCCE.
Current customers include Victoria Police, WPA, McConnell Dowell, VICRoads, Baptcare and some car yards. “Our customers are largely government and private fleet operators. State government funded agencies and projects have obligations to unlock social value under the Victorian Social Procurement Framework,” Steve says. “In the last 12 months the business has grown so quickly we don’t have enough people to fulfill the work coming our way. We have a waiting list.”
Looking into ways to expand their model, OCCE came up with the Blended Workforce Pilot, which seeks to partner with other agencies and match their own workforce with other jobseekers who may be facing barriers to employment.
“We are aware of the many cohorts with difficulty accessing the jobs market,” Steve says. “For some jobseekers, a placement like this could be a survival job, getting a foot in the door, getting work experience in the Australian context. They could come out of a carwash placement with transferable skills, a resume and a job reference. It also gives our own workforce social interactions with a diverse range of people.”
To date, OCCE has connected with three agencies across Melbourne to set up three different Blended Workforce Pilots: one with Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, one with Social Engine (supporting youth at risk) and one with Kirrip Aboriginal Corporation.
Western Program Alliance (WPA), a mature player in the social procurement space, came in as part of the project and committed to four worksites which will provide the commercial work to drive the pilots.
“Everything is good to go but at this stage, there are a lot of ‘known unknowns’, and one of the critical parts is to monitor our pilots effectively,” explains Steve. “That’s why Jobsbank’s funding is so important.”
The project is a fantastic demonstration of the power in social procurement – where spend can not only deliver an essential service, but one with clear social impact.
Jobsbank’s involvement is centred on testing and scaling the operation for expansion statewide, with an aim to create an estimated 200 jobs in the next two years, with a focus on regional areas where employment can be particularly challenging.
“We have our Theory of Change in place, and now we need to test our hypothesis,” Steve says. “We suspect there might be different outcomes for different cohorts in our pilots, and want to capture the complexities and the challenges. Our findings will be our inputs in designing and releasing our model to the market.”
The endgame will be a “business in a box” carwash that OCCE can provide to agencies. “It will open up employment opportunities. These could be in a remote community and might be led by an Indigenous organisation, or in regional Victoria, or another disability organisation could run the business,’ says Steve. “It’s good to know that Jobsbank is in our corner.”
About OC Connections
OC Connections provides specialised and innovative support services designed to create outcomes that enhance the quality of life for the people it supports and their families. Throughout the 2019/2020 year, OC Connections supported over 450 adults living with disability.
At Jobsbank we are passionate about inclusion and the difference it makes – not just to one person, but to teams and whole organisations. We believe in an Australia where everybody belongs. That’s why we’re helping to build more inclusive workplaces one business at time.
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