Council contract a coup for fledgling company

Posted Friday February 15, 2013

THE Australian tradition of a ‘fair go’ is alive and well in Toowoomba.

Toowoomba is home to a number of social enterprise ventures which are changing not only the individual lives of many of our residents, but the way in which businesses source their employment.

But, what is social procurement?

Social procurement centres on how organisations spend their money, who they purchase from, and what they purchase, and the social impacts they flow on from these decisions.

In Toowoomba a number of organisations are making informed decisions on how they source their labour and this has led to the development of Ability Enterprises.

Ability Enterprises is collaboration between Personnel West and the Toowoomba Clubhouse and seeks to create employment for disadvantaged people within the region.

In a major coup for the organisation Ability Enterprises has won the contract to operate the gate-houses at 13 waste management facilities for Toowoomba Regional Council.

Ability Enterprises operations manager Anthony Doidge said the labour hire company started in 2010 specialising in supplying labour to trade organisations.

“Wherever possible they like to work with disadvantaged workforces such as mental health and disability,” Mr Doidge said. “On the waste management facilities project about 70 per cent of those employed have a disabilities of varying degrees.”

“We have a mix of people working with us over-55s; people with disabilities; long-term unemployed and mainstream employees,” he said. “We use people in the community that have a gap in their resume for a variety of reasons from depression to diabetes. The one thing in common they have is they are willing and want to work.”

“It is a great range of people from varying backgrounds and demographics and the good thing about the program is that we don’t specialise in any demographic for our clients … we are open to all people from all different walks of life.

“All we want to do is to provide them with the opportunity to work.”

Mr Doidge said Ability Enterprises was one of the largest social enterprise projects in Australia.

“It’s a Toowoomba project. It’s Toowoomba-based and Toowoomba orientated,” he said. “It’s something the city can be proud of.”

“In fact if there are any companies out there are the moment with a labour shortage and I would encourage them to get in touch with us as we have workers ready to go.”

Mr Doidge said the company began the management of the waste management facilities for council on November 5 and a month into operations things were going smoothly.

“There have been a few minor hiccups, but from Day 1 of operation it has worked just how we have wanted it to. All the employees involved have all received training and will welcome people; direct customers to the correct areas for dumping; help people with the separation of waste and collect information about the amount and type of waste,” he said.

“This is one of the largest social enterprise schemes in Australia and is a wonderful opportunity for people who often find it challenging to find any work.

“People want to contribute to their community and this contract brings an ideal opportunity for those with a disability to fulfil their potential. Toowoomba Regional Council should be congratulated for recognising the potential of this scheme in our community.

“It goes to show that social ventures are entirely possible with the right mix of support from government, business and the community. We even had a local architect, Mark Nichols, chip in with the money to supply the uniforms for the workers on the waste project.

“There is so much more we can do in this space.”