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Leveraging Community Partners to Connect Employers and Job Seekers

Mar 14, 2016
Brad Spencer
Brad Spencer
Executive Director
PATH Employment Services

I’m Brad Spencer, Executive Director with PATH Employment Services, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities get jobs. I would like to tell you about how community service providers, such as PATH, can help your business hire people with disabilities. Chances are there is an organization like mine providing employment placement services for people with disabilities in your community.

Let’s assume that you’ve already come to realize what you have to gain from hiring a person with a disability. You’ve already been sold on the employee retention statistics and productivity studies. And you appreciate that people with disabilities represent 15 per cent of the population and that there is a lot of talent there. Maybe you have a person with a disability working for you and notice that your customers react positively. Demonstrating diversity in your workforce can strengthen your public profile persona, which helps to create an accessible and inclusive workplace. (“See Accessible Employment Practices.”)

But perhaps you’re wondering: How can my business bridge the gap? Like most employers, you would like to add to the diversity of your workplace, but you don’t know how to connect to job seekers with disabilities who can perform in the jobs that are available in your organization?

Fortunately, there is a network of service providers in many communities across Ontario that are dedicated to helping businesses hire people with disabilities. Many can be found through their membership with the Ontario Disability Employment Network. Many of these organizations are government funded, which means their services are available to businesses like yours free of cost.

These organizations will want to learn about your business and understand the kinds of roles you have and the characteristics of the specific job that you are looking to fill. They can work with you to break down the job by the tasks to be performed and draw out the skills and abilities required. Here is an example. PATH has worked closely with Gold Cross Home Care Inc. With an aging population and growing need for home care services, this business has been growing rapidly. It is hard work to attract and screen talent, and Gold Cross has been pleased with the enthusiasm, dedication, and positive attitude of the new recruits we have helped place—many of whom just happen to have a disability.

Hiring the wrong person can be costly. Organizations dedicated to helping people with disabilities get jobs appreciate that the performance of your employees determines the success or failure of your organization. We know our clients and will be looking to match them with you on the basis of their ability to perform the job. They can also add value by challenging you to consider a broader view of what makes a good hire. The essential skills of the job are typically where people with disabilities shine. Essential skills include interpersonal skills, communication (both oral and written), critical thinking (problem-solving), personal development (eagerness to develop and learn), and numeracy and IT skills. To learn more about employability skills, check out “Employability Skills 2000+.”

As an employer you don’t have the right to ask if a person has a disability, but you do have the right to ensure the person you hire can do the job. If workplaces have restrictions that impede mobility or other limitations, the specialists are able to assess the work environment and suggest appropriate accommodations. They can even offer advice on how to access funds to cover some of those costs. Typically, accommodations can be made with minimal cost and inconvenience.

If appropriate, a job coach can be assigned to help with initial training and orientation. Ultimately, if the individual is not well-suited to the job, the specialists can help with the transition, ensuring that your business finds an alternative candidate and the individual is provided with a more suitable opportunity. Relationships with the local business community are very important to agencies that provide placement services for people with disabilities. If you are challenged with finding great talent for your business, I encourage you to look into the resources available in your community.

The views and/or opinions expressed in this article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect The Conference Board of Canada’s position. Responsibility for content accuracy also rests with the author(s).

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