It’s been a grind for 41-year-old Ingrid Stewart. She is driven and desperate for work and said landing a job has been next to impossible.
“I’ve sent out 3,350 resumes since the pandemic started,” she said.
“I’ve been putting out 30 a day. I was on Indeed, Zip Recruiter, other job-finding engines to get them to take a look at me,” Stewart said.
Stewart is a highly skilled tradeswoman. She was a business owner and holds a red seal. She has a lot of experience laying floors, building fences and other construction projects. But in this job market, she’s getting overlooked. Stewart lives with autism.
“Marginalizing people with disabilities like myself? Wow, that really hurts,” Stewart said. “The feeling of rejection all the time, it makes you feel devalued with the amount of knowledge I have.
“I don’t let my disability dictate who I am.”
According to recent data, there are 40,000 fewer jobs across Alberta compared to this same time last year.
Kevin McNichol is the CEO of Prospect Human Services, an organization offering programs that break down barriers preventing people from finding meaningful work.
“You are seeing highly skilled people taking survival jobs, so you’re up into a competitive environment which makes it even harder to overcome these days,” McNichol said.
He and his team are working on educating employers about the value of hiring a variety of people.
“The actual cost of opening up your doors and accepting diversity in an untapped labour market can add tremendous value to your bottom lines,” McNichol said.
He’s encouraged by the Alberta government’s ‘Jobs Now’ program, providing employer incentives.
“The idea of this grant is to stimulate jobs. For employers, there is special exemption for persons with disabilities, which cover 30 per cent of salary. We think this is an amazing opportunity for employers to try out people — it’s a great opportunity.”
Stewart is hoping for a corporate culture shift to allow herself and others like her a chance.
“Look past that barrier and see what they are inside,” she explained.
“I want to advocate for people who have a disability to look for their ability. I know I have autism but I’m a hard worker,” Stewart said.