National program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work

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WATCH: The pandemic is making it more difficult for New Brunswick youth with disabilities to find work. But a program that helps prepare young people for the workforce is making strides in encouraging more businesses to hire inclusively. Shelley Steeves reports – Mar 18, 2021

A national program that helps prepare young people with disabilities for the workforce is making strides in encouraging more Moncton businesses to hire inclusively.

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The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work’s Youth the Future program is a work readiness program for people aged 15 to 30, said April MacAleese Jay, the program’s employment facilitator.

“We provide a lot of training when it comes to what it means to become work-ready and how to check the schedule and show up on time and your hygiene and dressing for the part,” said MacAleese Jay.

Since 2017, the program has served 97 clients in Greater Moncton with either employment training or in seeking and finding a job. The Moncton program has secured positions for 64 of its members to date and has supported six members in returning to school as they plan out their future career goals.

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The program, which is offered in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec, MacAleese Jay said, will subsidize 75 per cent of wages for 14 weeks and will work with employers to educate them on how to make appropriate accommodations for employees who identify as having a disability.

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“Making sure that the employer sees the person first and not the disability and the barrier,” said MacAleese Jay.

According to Statistics Canada figures from 2018, 26.7 per cent of New Brunswickers have a disability, which is the second-highest rate in the country.

MacAleese Jay said that some employers have been reluctant to hire inclusively, some viewing accomodating people’s needs as an employment hurdle.

But the President’s Group, an inclusive employment advocacy group in B.C., says on its website that studies show that employees with a disability had a “72% higher staff retention rate, 86% had equivalent or better attendance than their peers, (and) 90% performed equal or better than their coworkers without disabilities.”

“I think any employer who is willing to hire inclusively and look at the person first is going to see productivity they are going to see commitment,” said MacAleese Jay.

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She said finding potential employers has been a challenge, especially amid COVID-19 as competition for jobs is stiff.

But Brandon Dillon of Moncton, 20, who is currently enrolled in the program, said he has “gotten hope” for the future and was able to secure a job working for a moving company.

“Just seeing that I can get a job just made me really happy.”

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