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EARN members help people with disabilities find jobs, fill local labour gaps

3 MIN READ

Story highlights: 

  • Kate was having trouble finding steady, skills-based employment until she met Linda from Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care (PPRC), a partner within United Way’s Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN). 
  • EARN and its partners are helping pair employers with people like Kate, which is key in addressing local labour gaps. 
  • Our work to empower people with disabilities and create a more inclusive society requires the collective effort of communities, employers, and individuals.   

“One in six people in our communities who self-identify as having experience with disability, live in poverty. They want to work, they want a sustainable job, they want to improve their lives, and they want to contribute to the economy.”

Kate is one of those folks. After graduating from a social services college program nearly a decade ago, she never truly found her footing in a career that felt right for her. She ended up working in the local restaurant industry, but that became precarious when the pandemic hit, so she took a carpentry course, and that’s where she met Linda. 

Linda Simpson is the Director of Rehabilitation at Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care (PPRC) – an organization which works with the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN), led by United Way East Ontario, to create opportunities for people with disabilities.  

“When people come to us, they undertake a self-assessment by way of the Employment Readiness Scale, and we identify their priority needs from the employability dimensions,” said Linda. 

Linda worked with Kate to identify her strengths and abilities and find out what she was passionate about. Kate said she didn’t feel ready to work in social services back when she graduated college at the age of 23, but with more life experience under her belt, she was feeling positive about trying that path again. Through EARN, Linda introduced Kate to Tim Macmillan, President, Career and Vocational Evaluation (CVE). 

“The person I was working with [from CVE] helped me really reframe my mind because carpentry interviews are very different from social service work interviews,” explained Kate. “I did feel like a lack of confidence in my interview skills, going from one to the other, so I did feel like having that sounding board for me was very important [for me].” 

Helping employers identify and fill labour gaps

Working one-to-one with individuals like Kate is just one aspect of EARN’s value. Its members are also constantly working to educate local employers.  

“It’s important that employers look at their talent needs and come to an alternative talent pool, such as people with disabilities. And that’s our specialty,” said Linda. “We’re going to give those employers the support – both private and public sector employers – to help them with their recruitment needs at no cost to them.” 

Linda helps employers understand that people with disabilities are reliable, dependable, highly motivated, and in many cases, highly educated. 

“It’s all about changing lives. Helping people change their lives for the better and have a better career.”

I’ve watched Kate develop over the years, she was very motivated to work, which is important. She did require support along the way, and you could see that she appreciated the support that she received, because I always say there are three things our clients need: support, support, and support. And our employers need the same.” 

The journey continues for others like Kate

United Way remains steadfast in its commitment to uplifting vulnerable people in our communities and ensuring that everyone is given a chance to thrive.  

Countless individuals like Kate need support, understanding, and opportunities to showcase their skills and talents. Our mission to empower people with disabilities and create a more inclusive society requires the collective effort of communities, employers, and individuals.   

Join us and be part of this transformative journey for so many who need our help. As individuals, we can advocate for inclusive workplaces, challenge stereotypes, and create opportunities for those facing employment barriers. As employers, we can embrace diversity and tap into a talented and motivated workforce that includes individuals with disabilities.   

Together, we can change lives, build a stronger community, and create a more inclusive and prosperous society for all. Let us stand together and make a difference.

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The partnership between LiveWorkPlay and United Way, through the Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN), demonstrates the positive change that can be achieved when organizations join forces to promote inclusivity.

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