Employment Connections: A Transition Tool Kit for Youth with Disabilities
About the Student Leadership & Employment Forums Project and this Tool Kit
Since 1998, the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) has organized ten Disabled Student Leadership Forums across Canada. These events have been held in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, St. John’s, Antigonish, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Toronto, Victoria and most recently, again in Montreal. Detailed reports on each of these meetings are available on the NEADS Web site at www.neads.ca. The ideas and issues discussed with participants in the first six forums fell into the following distinct areas: support to campus organizations, support to individual students, expanded internet services, high school outreach and differences between small and large post-secondary institutions.
The NEADS Board of Directors decided to build on the successes of these meetings by expanding the topic areas discussed to include employment. This decision was made based upon an awareness of the importance of labour market issues and access to the job market for graduating students, and the value of summer or part-time work experience for those still in school. These issues were also addressed by the membership of the Association during its 2000 national conference in Ottawa, entitled “Networking, Educating, Advocating: Delivering Success in the New Millennium.” With the Board’s direction, NEADS worked in partnership with Human Resources Development Canada’s (HRDC) Youth Initiatives Directorate in order to deliver this additional component of the program in four locations in 2001-2002: Winnipeg, Toronto, Victoria and Montreal. The forums in 2001-2002 were sponsored through a contribution agreement with the Youth Initiatives Directorate (Information and Awareness Program) and hosted by members of the NEADS Board of Directors in collaboration with the Association’s national office and Steve Estey, project consultant.
Students with disabilities were invited to participate in the forums, to lend their insights to the issues at hand. A number of groups and organizations spoke to the students: regional HRDC representatives, employers and employment agencies, and leaders of both student and disability organizations.
The forums were divided into two distinct focus areas: student leadership and employment. Discussion in each area was similarly structured, with a panel presentation to introduce the subjects and put them into context, and then small group discussions around a prepared set of questions.
This document has been developed by NEADS to address the key questions and issues raised by students during the various forums. It’s designed to share with those unable to participate in our meetings some of the useful thoughts and solutions proposed by both students and employers. The first part of the guide profiles some innovative transition and employment programs available for students with disabilities, many of which were represented at the forums. This section also features contact information for participating organizations, so that students can easily determine the best contacts for employment-related assistance. Following these profiles, a number of key questions and answers, adapted from the forums themselves are presented for the readers’ benefit. Should further questions arise once you have read the document please feel free to contact us at the NEADS office and we will do our best to respond.
NEADS hopes that this tool kit, in addition to the information presented in the Student Leadership and Employment Forum reports available at www.neads.ca, will provide students with disabilities with some guidance in finding enriching employment experiences, during and after their academic careers.
NEADS would like to thank the following transition and employment representatives for helping make our forums and this publication possible: Human Resources Development Canada, Bank of Montreal, Advice and Business Loans for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities, Comité d’adaptation de la main d’oeuvre pour personnes handicapées, Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, the City of Toronto, Career Edge, Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres – Navigating the Waters program, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, GE Canada, Public Service Commission of Canada, Reaching E-Quality Employment Services, and STEP Services.