Employing workers with disabilities is not a big deal to Axiam general manager Frank Oskam.

Around five per cent of the workforce at the Whanganui company have some kind of disability.

But Jan Lawton of Workbridge Whanganui thinks it is a big deal and presented Oskam with an Above and Beyond Award.

"Frank thinks in terms of solutions rather than problems," says Lawton.


"It is a way of working we encourage other employers to follow."

The award was presented on United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).

"The day has been annually observed on December 3 around the world since 1992.

"The theme for this year's IDPD is 'Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality' and Frank is a great example of someone who provides that inclusiveness."

Oskam says Axiam is a solution driven business and it is just what the company does.

"We are engineers so we are quite good at finding ways to make things work."

Axiam Plastics, once a manufacturer of shoe soles and heels, found ways to diversify when New Zealand footwear manufacture went in to decline and it now makes a vast range of plastic and metal moulded products.

Dene McGonigle worked for Axiam when they made shoe components and he was keen to return after working as a security guard.


"They were always a good employer and I really wanted to come back.

"I was contacting Frank every week."

Oskam was enthusiastic about having a good worker back on his team but the workstation needed adjusting.

Being born with one arm has never prevented McGonigle from working but the table next to his machine was too high and he needed something with flexible height.

Enter Workbridge and Jan Lawton who was able to secure MSD funding to install an adjustable workbench.

"I can move it around easily and adjust the height with my foot," says McGonigle.

There is also a set of scales that let him know when a box is full so he doesn't have to count the individual components.

The injection moulding machine produces seats for school chairs and McGonigle deftly shaves off imperfections with a trusty Stanley knife.

In another work area at Axiam, Joe Fallen demonstrates an o ring machine which fits small plastic rings on to hose fittings.

Visual impairment does not prevent him from accurately slotting each fitting into the right place and the machine beeps when the ring is properly attached.

"I'm ahead with these at the moment so I'm doing other tasks," he says.

Axiam develops a lot of its own purpose-built machinery but Oskam says the o ring machine is imported.

"We did a Google search and found that someone had already made one and it is easy for Joe to use."

Oskam says there are other employees with disabilities that are not immediately apparent.

"I encourage other employers to give people with disabilities a go and I can highly recommend it.

"The workers here are always keen, always on time and do excellent work."

Jan Lawton says employers who may be able to provide work for people with disabilities can call Workbridge on 06 348 0355.