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Access to Success: A Guide for Employers

Diverse Opportunities at GE Canada

By Terry Peach, Manager, Organization and Staffing, GE Canada

GE is a Global Company, operating in over 100 countries around the world. Innovation is the engine that drives GE growth, and has since the days of Thomas Edison. Some recent examples of product innovations coming out of GE include a 4-D ultrasound that allows parents and doctors to see real time 3D pictures of the fetus, and an oven that cooks using light. GE is made up of very diverse businesses, each one a world leader in its industry. This includes technology businesses such as Power Systems, Medical Systems, Industrial Systems, Plastics, Specialty Materials, and Aircraft Engines, financial services such as Commercial Finance, Equipment Leasing, Insurance and Consumer Finance, consumer goods such as Lighting and Appliances, and entertainment and news through NBC and its subsidiaries and affiliates. People at GE share and live certain core values. They share a commitment to integrity, performance and change. These values drive the way GE operates, assesses performance, and promotes leaders.

GE values diversity in its employees and is committed to being a global employer of choice. In the words of Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Immelt, “GE should be a workplace where talented people can live their dreams – where it is diverse and with a vibrant culture.” At GE Canada there are many initiatives to help make diversity a reality. In order to remain a global employer of choice, it is very important for GE Canada to have a representative workforce. GE Canada businesses set employment equity goals and targets each year. Recently, a digital dashboard was created to regularly track the representation of the four designated groups (women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples and people with disabilities). This dashboard is generated every quarter and provides a graphical snapshot of the numbers of each of the designated groups in comparison to their external availability. This allows business leaders to assess their progress in achieving employment equity goals.

GE Canada also offers diversity training to all employees in order to build awareness and sensitivity to issues of diversity. There are currently three diversity-related workshops offered to all employees. The Diversity Awareness workshop provides participants with a general overview of core issues, such as the definitions of Employment Equity and Diversity, and GE’s workplace equity policies and strategies. The Harassment Prevention workshop gives participants an opportunity to learn more about workplace harassment and how to prevent it. By using case studies and group discussions, this workshop provides employees with useful strategies for dealing with workplace harassment and resolving complaints. The Diversity Leadership course offers managers and team leaders tools for not only managing diverse groups, but also leveraging the diversity within their teams. Online diversity training is also currently being developed so that remote employees have the opportunity to benefit from the training.

GE Canada also promotes and celebrates workplace diversity through local Diversity Councils, such as the one at the Canadian Headquarters - Meadowvale. This committee is made up of about fifteen employee volunteers from nine different GE Canada businesses. The Meadowvale Diversity Council organizes Lunch and Learn workshops and coordinates other diversity-related activities and events. Currently a Disabilities Awareness Lunch and Learn is being organized through the Ontario March of Dimes.

GE Canada is committed to improving the status of persons with disabilities within their organization. Outreach recruitment is one important aspect of this commitment. GE Canada has partnerships with several community agencies, such as Ontario March of Dimes, Link-Up employment agency, Strategic Employment Solutions, Canadian Paraplegic Association and Canadian National Institute for the Blind. By sending these agencies job postings on a regular basis, GE Canada is able to refer qualified applicants with disabilities to job openings and maintain a database of prescreened resumés that remain on file if any suitable positions become available. In addition to this, many internship positions are routinely posted with Ability Edge. Job fairs and conferences are also avenues that are used to meet and recruit qualified candidates with disabilities. For instance, GE Canada attended the Abilities 2003 job fair, and the NEADS conference 2002. The company has participated in the People in Motion trade show to create awareness in the disabled community about opportunities available within the organization. By engaging in these ongoing projects and developing new initiatives, GE Canada would like to become more successful in attracting high caliber candidates with disabilities.

GE Canada’s partnership with the E.C. Drury School for the Deaf is yet another example of its commitment to people with disabilities. For over fifteen years, the two organizations have worked together to offer a co-operative education program for students to gain hands on work experience. Each year, three co-op students from the E.C. Drury School complete their co-op terms at GE Canada. The students are accompanied by a sign language interpreter for their interview and first visit to the company. After this, individual accommodations are made for these students so that they may successfully complete their co-op terms. For instance, workplaces have been modified for students with multiple disabilities. In addition to the co-op partnership, GE Canada has offered a career orientation program to E.C. Drury students, including organizing a yearly trip to the National Technological School for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y. and a computer skills training program. Many of the co-op students from E.C. Drury have gone on to attain summer employment with GE Canada. An example of a success story from this partnership can be seen in Natasha, a former E.C. Drury co-op student who was offered employment with GE Canada. Natasha has been working with the Corporate Properties, Services and Operations group for the past four years. GE Canada has worked with Natasha, her parents and the E.C. Drury School to ensure that she has any accommodations she needs to do her job successfully. For instance, Natasha’s co-workers have attended company sponsored sign language training so that they can communicate with her. Also, she has been provided with a vibrating pager for emergency procedures. Natasha’s manager describes her as an excellent employee and a valued member of the team.

GE Canada makes every possible effort to create a workplace that is welcoming to people with disabilities, with a policy of accommodation for individual needs. The company will continue its efforts to recruit and retain people with disabilities so that it can truly be a global employer of choice. Learn more about GE at www.ge.com and GE Canada at www.ge.com/canada


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