An untapped workforce 

Selwyn Cook

Hiring disabled people can bring huge benefits to businesses and increase bottom line profitability, says Selwyn Cook.

The Tauwhare-based disability employment facilitator says 24 percent of New Zealanders have a disability or long term injury or illness.

“This represents a huge, often untapped, talent pool of potential employees,” he said.  “But unless disabled people are intentionally included in employment they will be unintentionally excluded.”

Selwyn is currently working with 20-year-old Cambridge man Michael Dodds, whose search for a hospitality job featured in last week’s edition of Cambridge News.

Selywn was named Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year in 2016 for his work to help disabled people into mainstream employment over a 27-year stint running a large network of Waikato service stations – including Shell and Z Cambridge.

“During that time we employed many disabled people and I began to appreciate that the disability community represented a talent pool and brought real value to our business,” he said.

“They were very stable staff who took no more sick leave than anybody else and were very committed to the roles they had.  There were zero performance management issues that I can remember and we found once they’d been given an opportunity, they were incredibly committed.”

He is now an independent facilitator who supports employers, job-seekers, providers and the disability community to “help close the disability employment gap”.

“My approach is we start with – if not the dream job – the choice of employment of the job seeker and then I work from there,” he said.

“Asking an employer to take someone on because they’re disabled is not the right thing.  It’s to consider disabled people because they will bring value to their business.”

If you would like to chat about employing a disabled person, please contact Selwyn on 027 480 4569 or email

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