Maryon Urquhart explained that Ability Edge is a program under the Career Edge national youth internship program. It specifically helps connect young people with disabilities to job internships. Its Web site is www.abilityedge.org.
Youths with disabilities face considerable barriers to employment, including employer attitude, physical access, transportation, and inadequate training, education, and skills. Youth feedback shows the need for more co-op and internship opportunities as well as more work-related and industry-related workshops, Urquhart said.
Urquhart went on to explain that Ability Edge offers six-, nine-, or 12-month internships to recent high school and post-secondary graduates with disabilities, paying a $1,500 monthly stipend and providing a mentor to guide the intern through the placement. Ability Edge works with private, public, and not-for-profit Canadian employers as well as student organizations and community-based organizations, such as NEADS.
Ability Edge internships offer many benefits, including: on-the-job training and experience, exposure to different careers and industries, networking, building self-esteem, developing work-related skills, learning about corporate culture, and support from a career coach. Both the employer and the intern sign codes of conduct and workplace ethics. She noted that over 60% of the interns are hired full-time by their host organizations at competitive salaries, and over 80% find work in their field within one to two months of completing their internship.
Ability Edge initially focused on humanities graduates but has since expanded to include jobs in information technology and many other fields. Sample opportunities include accounting, marketing, customer support, human resources, and project co-ordination. The program has 11 host organizations and has placed 75 interns.
In terms of disclosure, Urquhart noted that although using Ability Edge itself may constitute disclosure, there is no requirement to disclose one's disability; it is only necessary to express one's accommodations needs. The program will help with these needs and give one-on-one support.