New research into long-term employment for young adults with psychosocial disability is helping to change our workforce for the better. 

The new three year project launched by QUT, the Australian Retail Association, and Disability Employment Australia, will help to nurture a more accepting workplace for diverse Australians. The project will involve one hundred and twenty participants, with trials in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne to establish their “retail readiness.”

The study, a big step forward for creating a more inclusive country, comes after the Australian Government provided an $867,420 grant, which was administered by the Department of Social Services. Thanks to this funding, the QUT research team hopes to gain insight into how to prepare and support workers, and deliver impactful training to increase employment opportunities in the retail sector for workers with psychosocial disability. 



Australia’s retail industry 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing, young adults between the ages of 15-24 with a disability are more than twice as likely to be unemployed or experience longer periods of unemployment.

At the same time, due to the continued effects of COVID and an ongoing workers shortage, there are over 46,000 vacant jobs in the retail sector. This large gap in the workforce is a problem the QUT project aims to solve, focusing on helping the retail sector to develop a more accessible environment for diverse workers. 

Once the program has been completed, trainees will be provided with a certificate from the Retail Training Institute, which will allow them to access new opportunities in a previously closed employment market. These trainees will be well equipped with the skills needed for successful retail careers, meaning both employer and employee can thrive. 



The study

Professor Gary Mortimer, one of the lead researchers on the QUT team and chair of the ARA’s Consumer Research Committee says that research shows customers developed positive relationships with brands after engaging with diverse workers.

“Developing programs to help people with psychosocial disability overcome barriers to employment enables them to enter a workforce that provides gainful employment, social engagement and meaningful income,” he says. 

“This is real world research that’s going to deliver real outcomes for not just retail businesses, but society in general.”

And Gary isn’t alone in that sentiment. The Australian Retailers Association (ARA), one of the leading companies launching this project, wants to create a unified and diverse workplace. As a sector that employs 1.3 million Australians, retail has the opportunity to grow into a community of accepting and forward thinking team members. The ARA informs, advocates, educates, and protects the retail sector, hoping to turn this dream into a reality. 



Paul Zahra, ARA CEO, says retail is one of the most diverse work sectors in Australia. 

“Improving the diversity, equality, and inclusion opportunities for people with a disability is an important focus for our team members.”

“We applaud and warmly welcome this investment from the Federal Government which will be critically important in undertaking this work.”

 The project is still in early stages, but could signal the beginning of a more open and accepting workforce, providing diverse Australians with employment opportunities and helping to educate the public. 

To learn more about diversity in Australian industries, click here.