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UTAS Graduate Sam Flood Overlooked for 40 Internships

Sam Flood graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Pharmacy in December last year.

With above-average marks tucked under his graduation gown, he was set to take on a pharmacy internship that would be the final step into a career that he’s been focused on since he was in high school.

One year and 40 internship applications later, Mr Flood is still waiting for that next step – he’s been knocked back for every opportunity.

Why? Mr Flood believes it is because he has a disability.

Not that his disability would prevent him from working, but because potential employers do not understand, or feel uncomfortable, about broaching the subject with him.

“About this time last year, I started looking for a pharmacy internship, to have something lined up before I graduated,” he said.

“But that hasn’t worked out.”

Mr Flood puts it down to ignorance, and calls it an “uncomfortable trend” that he’s continued to notice throughout the process.

“In community pharmacies, I’d send a resume in, they’d read the cover letter and perhaps not read the part where I was in a wheelchair,” Mr Flood said, who is originally from George Town but has since moved to Hobart to complete his studies.

“[When I’d come in for an interview] they’d be surprised and taken aback. I think if people took the time to get to know me, they’d find that I am more than capable of doing the job.”

Mr Flood said that only minor adjustments, if any, would need to be made to most community pharmacies, to allow him ease of access. But he’s never had the chance to have that conversation.

“No one would be willing to admit that it might be a problem [for them], but it wouldn’t be [from my point of view],” Mr Flood said.

“Most people are not comfortable having these conversations. It’s a classic taboo. No one really wants to talk about it but if we did talk about it, it makes it so much easier for everyone.”

Mr Flood said his advice to potential employers would be to keep an open mind.

“As soon as you meet someone and be willing to talk to them to discuss as to how it can work because it always can work, there’s always a way,” he said.

Mr Flood has shared his plight via an online video, as part of an initiative from University Specialist Employment Partnerships.

The new partnership is part of the federally funded National Disability Coordination Officer Program.

The partnership will seek to further understanding between employers and university graduates, by creating an on-campus specialist recruitment service that links a disability employment services consultant with university career advisors, Darlene McLennan said.

Ms McLennan is the National Disability Coordination Officer for North and North-West Tasmania, and says situations like Mr Flood’s were common.

It’s estimated that about half of the Australians living with disability are employed, with many suggestions that the low figure is due to a lack of awareness from employers.

“The focus is improving graduate outcomes for students with a disability,” she said.

“For me, the most important story of this is that Sam is a very skilled, personable man who has done well in his qualifications, and yet struggles to find an internship.

“[He does question why] the large majority of students he graduated with have found that internship.

“He has so much to give, as a pharmacist.”

Ms McLennan said funding could be available for employers who would need to make accessible changes to their workplace, to accommodate employees with disabilities.

It’s hoped the University Specialist Employment Partnerships program will begin at the University of Tasmania soon, after it was launched this year at Griffith University on the Gold Coast.

Since his video went live earlier this month, Mr Flood said he had had some “promising” contact come forwards.

He said it had been a conversation starter, meaning it had achieved its aim in starting a dialogue about employing people and graduates with a disability.

Mr Flood would ideally like to secure an internship in Hobart, where he’s established a life and a good support network.
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