Helping people with developmental disabilities find employment is not only good for them, but a benefit to employers and the community.
“Employability is good for business,” says Ainsley Moore, vocational counsellor with the Parksville and District Association for Community Living (PDACL).
While PDACL is “dedicated to empowering people with disabilities” as their slogan says, their Community Career Connections program focuses on helping those who want to find gainful employment.
Moore cited statistics: 86 per cent of adults with developmental disabilities have above-average attendance at work and most stay at a job five times longer than the average employee.
But she also said the career program is about helping participants “grow to achieve their hopes and dreams.”
Currently funded for 10 participants, most to date have gone into some form of regular-salaried employment, but Victoria Trerice is looking to become the program’s first to start her own business.
“I love dogs,” she said, summing up the reason she is working towards starting a dog-walking business called Puppy Love.
The 22-year-old hasn’t been in the area long, having moved here from Victoria, but she said she knows her way around well, and enjoys walking, so it didn’t take long for her and Moore to settle on the dog-walking idea.
As always, Moore said she spent dozens of hours getting to know Trerice when she entered the program, discovering what she might like to do and what she’s capable of.
Moore said she spends 50 to 80 hours getting to know each person and focuses on what they like, rather than just what they might initially think they should do for work.
In other cases, as a participant begins to narrow in on job prospects, it is Moore who contacts the business and, once hired, Moore is actually the one trained for the job. She is then the person who trains and supports the participant in the new job.
Sometimes the jobs their participants end up doing weren’t even specific jobs before they got there, but Moore and the employer work together to discover various tasks the business needs doing that may not already be getting done.
They call it “job carving” and assemble a job from various other bits.
Moore is then responsible, at no extra cost to the employer, for making sure the participant is trained and capable of the various tasks.
For example, last summer she trained one participant in recycling at Rathtrevor and very slowly backed away, literally. Once things were working she stepped back and observed for a day. The next day she observed from outside the tent. The following day she sat across the road and kept pulling back as the new employee became more confident.
“The employer trusts me to make sure they arrive on time and cover all their duties,” Moore said.
The participants then learn and grow into their jobs like any other employee, possibly taking on other tasks and developing new skills.
PDACL’s career program now has people working at a range of places including A&W, Tim Hortons, Rathtrevor, Quality Foods, the Society of Organized Services, Black and White Party Rentals and the Parksville Downtown Business Association’s familiar litter control “clean team.”
Meanwhile, Trerice and Moore are doing all the long, hard work it takes to start a business, nearing the end of the market research phase, which she has spent months on, including developing an extensive survey to see how customer’s at Bosley’s Pet Food Store might use a dog-walking service.
Moore said she is happy with the great support and relationship they have with their existing employers, but they are always looking for new businesses to get involved as employers, mentors like Bosley’s, or any other form of support.
For more information visit www.pdacl.ca.
Interested businesses should contact Moore at 250-954-7530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.