This September, British Columbia will celebrate inclusive employers and the contributions of people with disabilities in the workplace with the third-annual Disability Employment Month.
This recognition of meaningful employment for people with disabilities is an integral part of Accessibility 2024, the 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities.
During the month of September, WorkBC Employment Services Centres throughout British Columbia will host open houses, job fairs and workshops to highlight the range of services and supports available to help job seekers with disabilities, as well as resources for employers who want to hire people with disabilities and build inclusive workplaces.
A network of B.C. business leaders – the Presidents Group – champion employment and consumer opportunities and improved outcomes for people with disabilities. Presidents Group members are actively encouraging employers to hire more people with disabilities and share their collective learnings on the recruitment, hiring and retention of employees with disabilities with other employers.
Employers from all sectors of British Columbia recognize the benefits people with disabilities bring to the workplace.
For example, Vancity recently identified a business need within their enterprise-wide information technology upgrade project that aligned with the skill sets of people on the autism spectrum and hired eight people who have been on the job since December 2015.
Another B.C. employer, Pacific Bolt Manufacturing, recently hired Jamie, a young man with an intellectual disability as a facilities technician, responsible for sorting, packaging and janitorial duties. Jamie was hired through Ready, Willing and Able, a national initiative designed to increase labour force participation of people with intellectual disabilities and autism.
The City of Surrey, a public sector organization with 4,000 employees, is also working hard to become a “disability confident” employer. Surrey has hired people with disabilities for a variety of roles, including athletes with disabilities, like former Paralympian Alison Kabush, who works as an instructor for Surrey’s sports and recreation programs, including the Boccia program, an adapted version of Bocce for players aged six years and up.
Each of these employers understands that hiring people with disabilities is good for business. Almost 90% of consumers prefer companies that employ people with disabilities, according to a study cited in a conference board report.
Job seekers and employers can contact their local WorkBC Employment Services Centre to learn more about inclusive hiring resources and services and supports to help people with disabilities obtain employment.
Michelle Stilwell, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation –
“British Columbia has a goal to have the highest labour participation rate in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024. I want to congratulate those businesses who already support diversity in their hiring. They understand that a business that is accessible and inclusive is telling its customers that it is welcoming to everyone. I want to encourage more companies to learn more about the benefits of creating an inclusive workplace. Let’s all carry the message that people with disabilities are ready, willing and able to work.”
Darryl Plecas, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors and Accessibility, and MLA for Abbotsford-South –
“Disability Employment Month is an important opportunity to celebrate all the benefits people with disabilities bring to our workplaces, our economy and our communities. Our government is proud to work in partnership with the business community and the disability community to raise awareness about the many programs and services available to people with disabilities and employers.”
Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO, Vancity and co-chair, Presidents Group –
“Hiring people with disabilities is good for business. People with disabilities fill a variety of roles at Vancity, and these individuals are key to our success – they bring unique skill sets, a tremendous work ethic and help us build a strong corporate culture that allows us to achieve our goals and attract new members.”
Craig Richmond, president and CEO, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and co-chair, Presidents Group –
“At YVR, we are investing more resources into hiring people with disabilities. I am also proud to support the inclusion of more people with disabilities in the workforce through the Presidents Group, which is actively engaging with employers to learn more about their experiences recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities, and encourage them to take their inclusive hiring practices to the next level.
Tara Roberts, Support Services and Accessibility manager, City of Surrey –
“The City of Surrey is focused on attracting, hiring and promoting a diverse workforce that includes individuals with disabilities. We strive to interview and hire individuals with disabilities into existing positions within the City. To date, we've been successful on a number of hires in a variety of roles in the City's Parks, Recreation and Culture department using this approach. This is why we feel it’s important to highlight events like September’s Disability Employment Month, as it allows us to showcase all the efforts that we are making as a city to be a disability confident employer and to encourage others to do the same.”
Dr. Gary Birch, executive director, Neil Squire Society –
“Many people with disabilities are educated, willing and able to work. One of the biggest limiting factors for their full inclusion is inability to find and keep work. With programs such as Technology@Work, we are making important strides to support people with disabilities and employers with assistive technology solutions to address barriers in the workplace. Dedicating September as BC Disability Employment Month is another step in increasing the full inclusion of people of disabilities in BC.”
- The provincial government offers a number of programs that support job seekers and employees with disabilities and employers who want to build an inclusive workplace. This includes:
- 84 WorkBC Employment Services Centres across the province that serve British Columbians, including people with disabilities.
- Over $179 million invested through the Employment Program of BC over the last four years to help people with disabilities overcome barriers to employment. Since 2012, almost 75,000 people with disabilities have received one-on-one support from a WorkBC centre case manager, with approximately 37% of those finding employment or volunteer work.
- $3 million annually for the Technology@Work program, operated by the Neil Squire Society, to provide assistive technologies that support employment goals.
- More than $4 million invested in post-secondary programs to increase the success of students with disabilities.
- $3.4 million for Community and Employer Partnership projects focused on work experience and improved employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
- Community Living BC's (CLBC) Community Employment Action Plan was launched in 2013. Since then it has helped 1,800 people access employment. A total of 4,000 people receiving CLBC services (21%) now report an income.
- Government, business and the disability community are working together to reduce barriers and champion employment opportunities for people with disabilities through Accessibility 2024, government’s 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive province for people with disabilities in Canada.
- The Presidents Group – a group of influential business leaders – are encouraging employers across different sectors to hire more people with disabilities.
- There are approximately 334,000 British Columbians aged 15-64 years who self-identify as having a disability.
- According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability approximately half of these persons are employed.
- A Job Accommodation Network study found that more than half of 1,100 employers of people with disabilities benefitted from increased overall company morale and productivity.
- Almost 90% of consumers prefer companies that employ people with disabilities, according to a study cited in a 2012 Conference Board report.
Resources for job seekers with disabilities: www.WorkBC.ca/Accessibility
Find a local WorkBC Employment Services Centre: www.workbccentres.ca
Accessibility 2024: www.gov.bc.ca/Accessibility
Learn more about the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation: www.gov.bc.ca/sdsi
For more information on B.C.'s Skills for Jobs Blueprint: www.workbc.ca/skills
To find out more about the BC Jobs Plan: www.engage.gov.bc.ca/bcjobsplan/