So you own a business and you need somebody to anchor the front desk at night. Or you need cleaning staff part time mid-day. Or, maybe somebody to enter reams of data on a repetitive basis. Most business owners go the traditional route when looking to fill part time or full time, permanent or temporary, positions. They call the job bank and put in an ad. They call one of the local temp services. They place a classified ad in the local papers. And they sort through literally hundreds of hopeful resumes trying to select someone who will be loyal, happy with this repetitive work, and content with the value it gives to your company.

There is another way.

What if somebody else did the pre-selection for you? What if somebody else found you the right individual, helped you train that person, helped with any special equipment that person might need to perform the job? What if the person was going to take a little longer to do the work, and there was a subsidy to cover the extra time they’d need?

In a nutshell, that’s what the Abilities and Opportunities Coalition is all about.

Karen Eilersen, owner of Discovery Child Care Centre and recent winner of the Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award, brings real innovation to her child care operation on Harvie Road. She tries to give back to her community in as many ways as possible. She hires new ECE grads to give them job entry opportunity; her young clients grow their own vegetables in the garden at the back of the centre and some of the food goes to the Food Bank; her mid-day janitorial person is a very special individual.

Karen hired April Zator through the Abilities and Opportunities Coalition and for the past four months, April has been learning the janitorial business while she also learns how to relate to young children, and to adult staff at Discovery Child Care Centre. For four hours each day, April is on site to help mop floors, wash dishes, maintain health standards that Karen is so fussy about.

Karen hired April through the Coalition and has only glowing words about the process.

“I was approached by a job support worker with the Barrie and District Association for People with Special Needs to help teach job skills. We had two people come in, with interesting results. From that I learned about the Abilities and Opportunities Coalition and thought about a janitorial position that I wanted to fill. I wondered if there was a subsidy for a person who would take twice as long to do the job, but not cost me twice as much in wages.

“There was. Through the Abilities and Opportunities Coalition, the job support worker did the initial employee search, did some extra training while I did the typical on-job duty training. They handle extra training problems,” says Karen.

“April’s doing a great job. We could have hired anybody, but I feel like we’re giving something back to the community. She’s here every day from 2 to 6; we include her in all our staff socials, but she’s not at the point yet where she’s comfortable joining us. Every day she grows in confidence plus she has a job with an income that’s her own.”

The coalition is truly that... five agencies working together with Human Resources Development Canada to provide job training and support to the employer willing to look at hiring a special needs individual.

The goal of the coalition is to make the hiring as trouble-free as possible for the employer. This project will fund any workplace adjustments that need to be made because of a disability. For instance, if a workstation needs to change to accommodate a wheelchair, the Coalition will handle the changes and their cost. Job Developer Christene Ross works with the employer community to help refer motivated candidates, pre-screen them, help save time and money in recruitment, provide a wage subsidy when necessary, help with modifying job needs, giving some ability and awareness training, and one on one job coaching. Christene also provides interpreters for interviews, training and staff meetings for someone who’s hearing or sight impaired, along with ongoing followup and support.

In short, the Coalition wants to make the transition to employment for special needs clients as painless as possible for everyone concerned.

For the special needs client, Christene helps them prepare their resumes and get ready for the job interview. She helps with jobs skills training and with looking for employment leads. She assists in identifying potential employers and gives ongoing followup and support.

Special needs clients available for employment through the Abilities and Opportunities Coalition come from five different agencies... Barrie & District Association for People with Special Needs; Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Huronia Hearing Impaired, Simcoe County Association for the Physically Disabled.

Each agency has its own employment workers and its own clients and as the Job Developer Christene Ross is an employee of all five agencies, plus Human Resources Development Canada which is providing much of the funding to help people get into the work force.

If your company has a job which a special needs person could do, this could be a decision that changes how you think about special needs people. The help to make the transition is tremendous. And the decision is literally life changing for the person you hire.

Thanks, Karen. Thanks, April. Thanks, Christene.

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