Disabled worker glad to get chance

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 08:18 21/02/2013
Giovanna Christensen
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
JOB BARRIERS: Giovanna Christensen, 21, who has spina bifida, says employers should be more open minded when considering job applicants.

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Today is Giovanna Christensen's third day in her new job after about two years of searching for work in Christchurch.

The 21-year-old, who has spina bifida, has a part-time role as a customer services administrator with baking ingredients company Bakels in Middleton.

Christensen's role involves confirming and processing customer orders and other general office work. It is a part-time role for 25 hours a week and will become permanent after a 90-day trial period. It was all new, so it was quite hard work but it was going well, she said yesterday.

After finishing year 13 at Burnside High in 2009 Christensen completed a six-month business course at Vision College. She had started looking for work when the September 2010 earthquake hit and had struggled to find long-term employment since.

Christensen was introduced to Bakels as a prospective job candidate through Catapult Employment Services Trust about two weeks ago. Catapult is a free supported employment service for jobseekers and employers, and places people with disabilities and others struggling to get into the work force for other reasons.

Christensen's condition may have deterred some prospective employers in the past as spina bifida was not well understood and her job applications had tended to not get past the interview stage.

In her case, the condition affects her ability to stand or sit for long periods of time, but as long as she can alternate between the two, or move between tasks regularly, she can work comfortably.

"I just let her know that I have problems with my back and I said I was not able to do certain things and she said it's not a huge problem," Christensen said.

Bakels office manager Carolyn Tooby said she had appreciated Christensen's honesty about her limitations.

Tooby had also been impressed with Christensen's presentation for the interviews and the fact she already had the appropriate keyboard skills needed.

The job had previously been filled by older staff and it was refreshing to have a young person in the role, Tooby said.

Catapult employment consultant Joe Maxwell had met with Tooby, and discussed what the company needed, and then returned with some CVs of appropriate candidates, including Christensen's.

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- The Press

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