What is being done to bring job seekers with disabilities and employers who want to hire them together? That was the question being asked at a job fair aimed at people with disabilities held this week in Winnipeg.
According to the Statistics Canada report done by Diane Galarneau and Marian Radulescu on employment among the disabled, data from the 2006 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey reveals that 42% of workers with disabilities were unable to find work. From 1999 to 2006, employment opportunities increased for men without disabilities from 73% to 75%. Employment for men with disabilities increased from 48% to 56%. Employment for women without a disability increased from 61% to 65%. Employment for women with a disability increased from 39% to 46% during this time period.
For many disabled individuals looking for work, these statistics reveal a continuing problem for those who are unemployed.
One effort aimed at addressing this dilemma is the Ability Axis Employment Expo that took place on Wednesday, October 23, at the Victoria Inn on Wellington Avenue. This included a hearty breakfast, employment workshops, and an exhibition hall where employees and employers could meet and network. This was the third time the expo was held, and this year it was switched to October as part of the Disability Employment Awareness month – setting up practical ways for employers to find talented workers and job seekers with disabilities.
Ken, a hard-working, energetic and inspired worker who has experience as a computer programmer and writing articles for his previous company newsletter, attended the job fair. While he was happy to see hundreds of people participating in the day-long expo, he says employers must overcome unfair characterizations they make about hiring people with disabilities.
“Often people with disabilities are not employed,” said Ken. “The barriers are the need for accommodations, and employers’ pre-judgements. Employers do not always see the positives of hiring employees with disabilities and that they are capable of doing the job without help.”
Gary, who was also at the job fair, is an enthusiastic, motivated and strong leader. He says he has been described at his previous job as approachable, and that people came to him for help.
“Most accommodations are less than $500,” said Gary. “Often people bring their own accommodation devices.”
“Barriers that people with disability sometimes face is the attitude that people think we can’t do the job,” added Gary. “However as more and more people with disabilities are hired employers are realizing that people with disabilities bring in to the work environment all kinds of strong skill sets to do the job effectively.”
So who is hiring disabled employees in Manitoba?
Manitoba Hydro is committed to diversity and strives to accommodate workers in an inclusive workplace. They have opportunities for students with disabilities and a vocational internship for people with brain injuries.
Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is committed to accessibility and is one of Canada’s top diversity employers because of the healthy workplace that has been established.
According to The view from here, Manitobans call for a poverty reduction plan, a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba (June 2009), the percentage of Manitoba civil service employees with disabilities in March 2008 was 2.9% of government workers. The government’s target is 7%.
In Manitoba, some progress has been made with the Career Gateway Program, the Management Internship Program for People with Disabilities, the Common Recruitment Initiative, and the Student Temporary Employment Program Career Options for Persons with Disabilities.
Rob McInnes is one of the master minds who organizes the Ability Axis Employment Expo. He has founded different initiatives to hire people with disabilities including Diversity World, Ability Axis Employment Expo and has written several books on employment that can be found on the Diversity World website.
“It’s great to see so many people here today,” said McInnes. “Often times people with disabilities feel isolated or separate from everyone else. At an event like this, they feel comfortable and welcome.”
McInnes was also happy to see the expo attract a wide variety of prospective employers who are making the effort to hire people with disabilities.
During breakfast, Deborah Dagit presented You Can Be an Ally: The VOICE Program – revealing how people with disabilities are an emerging market of talent. Her disability, along with her experience as Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Global Diversity & Inclusion, has allowed her to help people find their inner gifts, as well as help allies promote these in the workplace.
Motivational and inspiring workshops were led by Denise Bissonnette and Kimberley Halwas on revolutionary ways of doing your job search, disclosing your disability, and calming the internal harsh critic, using ideas from Denise’s book, Cultivating True Livelihood.
Organizations at the event:
- Bison Transport
- CNIB – Manitoba Division
- Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development
- Cargill Limited
- City of Winnipeg
- Community Futures Manitoba
- Community Living Manitoba
- Connect Employment Services Inc
- Disability Employment Awareness Month
- Manitoba Customer Contact Association
- Manitoba Hydro
- Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries
- Manitoba Public Insurance
- New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults & Families
- Opportunities for Employment
- Partners for Workplace Inclusion
- Premier Personnel
- Province of MB – Civil Service Commission
- Province of MB – Entrepreneurship, Training & Trade
- RBC Royal Bank
- Reaching E-Quality Employment Services
- Sair Training Employment Placement Services – STEPS
- Sara Riel Inc
- SCE Lifeworks
- Service Canada
- TD Canada Trust
- The Paper Fifrildi
- The University of Winnipeg
- Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba
All photos by Noah Erenberg