Saskatchewan groups helps those with disabilities gain and keep jobs

WATCH ABOVE: A new survey suggests individuals with disabilities continue to face challenges when it comes to finding employment. Joel Senick finds out what some organizations are doing to help with skills training that could secure jobs.

SASKATOON – Ryan Jeddry moves through various tasks in a cramped kitchen on a recent afternoon. One minute he’s sorting through cutlery, the next he’s running hot water over plates still speckled with remnants of food.

Jeddry, like thousands of employed residents in Saskatoon, is in the middle of a work shift and seemingly focused on his tasks at hand. However there is a unique barrier that Jeddry must overcome if he hopes to be successful in this environment.

“Usually new routines kind of stress me out a little and it might not make me concentrate,” said Jeddry, who has autism.

“My mind goes all over the place and it flashes back with thoughts that I don’t want to think of.”

A Statistics Canada report released Thursday found that in 2012, roughly 10 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 64 had an “impairment because of a long-term condition or health problem that limited their daily activities.”

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“Maybe someone has some mental health issues, maybe they have a physical disability, maybe it’s a learning disability, autism, something like that,” said Janine Baumann, the Saskatchewan Abilities Council program manager.

Baumann said the council helps hundreds of clients each year secure and keep employment through its programming. The jobs cross various industries, she added.

“Saskatoon’s a very supportive community,” said Baumann.

“Employers are more than willing to work with us once we’ve explained a little bit what the program is, what we can offer,” she added.

READ MORE: ‘Just Watch Me’ contest helps entrepreneurs with disabilities

The Statistics Canada report noted a number of common barriers those with disabilities indicated they face when attempting to get a job. Roughly 32 per cent said inadequate training or experience was an obstacle.

Having post-secondary education can sometimes be a deciding factor when securing employment, according to Baumann. Institutions like Saskatchewan Polytechnic indicate that they are willing to help accommodate students that face mental or physical barriers.

“They may need more time to write an exam, they may need a reduced work load,” said Anne Neufeld, the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Provost.

Currently five per cent of the institution’s student population reports having a disability. Eight councillors work with those students across the province before and during the semester.

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“It’s really important to keep in mind that when they graduate they have the same work-ready skills as any other Saskatchewan Polytechnic student that comes out with a certificate or a diploma,” said Neufeld.

Getting a job is only half the battle, according to Baumann. The abilities council will regularly follow up with clients, like Jeddry, to make sure they’re succeeding in the workplace.

“They check on me, check up on me to see if I have any problems,” he said towards the end of a recent interview, before heading back into the kitchen to continue his shift.