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workforce for newcomers, people with disabilities and youth, including stigma, misinformed perceptions and biased or outdated assumptions.


Only 63% of people with disabilities participate in Ottawa’s labour market compared to 81% of the general population.


to Ottawa who hold a university degree had an unemployment rate of 15%. More than 3X higher than their Canadian-born counterparts.


Many Ottawa residents are financially insecure: In some areas, 30% are living on a low income.


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

1 IN 6

people with disabilities in Canada live on a low income. 40% of newcomers live on a low income.

44% LESS

Canadians with disabilities earn 44% less than Canadians without disabilities.

Our response

United Way strives to build communities that are accessible, inclusive and financially equitable for everyone. This means that every person has access to employment, a solid understanding of how to be financially secure and an opportunity to become financially independent.

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 that will work for our region.

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. The initiative is focused on improving labour market outcomes for youth and improving entrepreneurial skills.
United Way’s networks are vast and include connections to many sectors, industries, businesses, governments, elected officials, social services and community leaders. This puts us in a unique position to create opportunities for people who are left behind by existing economic systems and to break down barriers. By convening community champions and experts, we are building connections across East Ontario and connecting organizations with the tools they need to reimagine business ecosystems in ways that benefit everyone—including the most marginalized people in our communities.

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

68% of supported individuals gained employment

1,641 supported individuals gained employment

69% of participants obtained or maintained employment

1,670 individuals received job skills training

Outcome: Newcomers are engaged in the labour market

67% of newcomers found employment

382 newcomers found employment

Outcome: People with disabilities are engaged in the labour market

80% of job seekers with disabilities found employment

1,218 of job seekers with disabilities found employment

Outcome: Priority populations are engaged in the labour market

85% of employers increased their knowledge of barriers faced by priority populations

444 employers increased their knowledge of barriers faced by priority populations

Outcome: Youth are supported in their transition to employment

75% of youth gained post-secondary employment, further education, or credentials.

81 youth (ages 15-24) gained employment

Results (In 2018-19)

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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