From Poverty to Possibility

A job, a purpose, a sense of belonging—we can ensure more people in our communities achieve financial independence and stability.

The issue

Across our region, there continues to be major barriers to inclusion in the workforce for newcomers, people with disabilities and youth, including stigma, misinformed perceptions and biased or outdated assumptions.


In Ottawa, only 62.8% of people with disabilities participate in the labour market compared to 81.8% of the general population.


with a disability in Canada live in low income, compared with 9% of those without a disability.


In some Ottawa neighbourhoods, more than 30% of individuals are living in low income.


in Ottawa are unemployed. The rates are higher for Indigenous youth at 16%, and immigrant youth at 18%


of recent newcomers have a bachelor’s degree or higher.


in Ottawa report difficulties in recruiting the skills they need for their businesses.

Our response

With our commitment to impact, our role as community convener, and our involvement with other funders and planners in this area, United Way East Ontario leverages our network of partners and donors to help our communities come together to create real solutions.

We take a multi-pronged approach to addressing employment disparities for vulnerable populations across Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark County and Renfrew County—most substantially through initiatives that bring key community stakeholders together to pursue a collective mission. These include:

A community-wide initiative led by United Way and supported by the Government of Ontario that brings together employers, service providers and other partners with the goal of increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and promoting inclusive and accessible workplaces.
An initiative that brings together employers, immigrant agencies and stakeholders, Hire Immigrants Ottawa enhances employers’ ability to access the talents of skilled immigrants in the Ottawa area. HIO’s mandate is to increase the capacity of employers in the Ottawa region to more effectively attract, hire and integrate skilled immigrants into skills-appropriate positions. It does so by convening and collaborating with employers, building employer capacity and raising public awareness. The initiative receives support from the Government of Ontario.
An initiative co-chaired by United Way, the Royal Bank of Canada and the Ottawa Employment Hub, including employers and key community partners from the non-profit and private sectors, that is focused on improving labour market outcomes for youth and improving entrepreneurial skills.

The outcomes

United Way also partners with local, front-line agencies to deliver vital programs and services that help improve lives, break down barriers, and create opportunities for our region’s most vulnerable people. These include job training and mentoring for youth, newcomers and people with disabilities, as well as education for employers. As part of our commitment to measuring our impact, we track and report how these investments make a difference.

Outcome: Engagement in the labour market

1,355 supported individuals gained employment

852 individuals received job skills training

Outcome: Newcomers are engaged in the labour market

67% of newcomers found employment

309 newcomers found employment

Outcome: People with disabilities are engaged in the labour market

78% of employers increased their knowledge of barriers faced by people with disabilities

190 employers increased their knowledge of barriers faced by people with disabilities

Outcome: People with disabilities are engaged in the labour market

1,012 job seekers with disabilities found employment

Outcome: Youth are supported in their transition to employment

76% of youth gained postsecondary employment, further education, or credentials

111 youth (ages 15-24) gained employment

Outcome: People in financial crisis receive supports

3,203 people in financial crisis received financial services and supports

Results (In 2017-18)

A note on numbers: In 2017, the four United Ways of Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark and Renfrew Counties decided to join forces. Today, we operate as one entity: United Way East Ontario. As we evolve and increasingly see and seize opportunities to work cross-regionally, more data will become available to report on the local needs and investment outcomes in all of the communities we serve. For this reason, for now, many of the facts and stats on this page are Ottawa-specific as it represents our largest investment footprint.

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