We believe every autistic individual has the right to meaningful employment. That’s why this past February, we held the first-ever CAN Virtual Job Fair!
Made possible with funding from the Government of Canada’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, the inaugural event was part of the national Employment Recovery Project.
The project began with an all-too-familiar question. How do we create a meaningful opportunity to engage with employers, while staying safe and physically distanced? After seeing the success of CAN’s new virtual programs, we looked to a similar online format!
Our Employment Services Team quickly got to work in the new year to bring together a diverse group of businesses, employment services agencies and programs over Zoom.
11 employers, including RBC and London Drugs.
12 employment organizations, like posAbilities and WorkBC.
Interest and support came from all fronts, as our friends at Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility generously signed on to provide live captioning and ASL interpretations for all Zoom sessions.
With an exciting roster of groups eager to present their opportunities, we put the call out to our youth and adult members – Let 2021 be the year you kick start your job search! The response was immediate with over 150 registering.
With 29 presentations scheduled over the course of the month, the CAN Virtual Job Fair was organized week-by-week to simulate the employment journey.
The first week of sessions aimed to showcase resources to assist in the pre-employment stage. Groups like CI Employment and EmploymentWorks Canada showed job seekers how to access resources like job coaching and consultations. Meanwhile, Back In Motion led a series of workshops on resume building, interviewing and job search techniques.
“This is going to be very helpful in supporting my job search!”
After learning about groups that can support their job search, attendees heard directly from businesses with immediate opportunities, like KPMG and Ernst & Young. And in the final week, job seekers attended a series of workshops that focused on long-term success in the workforce, like mental health and safety.
Meridian Farm Market CFO Brody McDearmid was among the 11 participating employers. A longtime CAN supporter and champion for inclusive employment (2019 Autism BC Inclusive Employer of the Year), Brody was one of the first to sign up for the CAN Virtual Job Fair.
“There is a solid business case in hiring inclusively,” said Brody.
“Individuals with diversabilities have a lot to offer. We had a Q&A after our presentation and the group was so engaged and eager to learn more. It was a fantastic experience.”
Kyle Kozak, an Apprenticeship Advisor from the Industry Training Authority (ITA), was also quick to highlight how the digital platform still allowed for valuable interaction with job seekers.
“We were so pleased with the level of interest in the ongoing Zoom chat. I am eager to work with any candidates interested in starting an apprenticeship!”
While the majority of attendees were job seekers on the spectrum, we also welcomed parents seeking to support the employment journey. One of them was longtime CAN parent, Jo Sears, whose son Beau is a mainstay on the Vancouver Orcas hockey team.
“Every parent wonders what adulthood will bring for their child, and this is brought into sharper focus by an autism diagnosis.”
“Beau is in Grade 10 and his transition to adulthood is looming large. There are so many more opportunities and supports than I dared hope for. For years, I’ve been filled with trepidation, but this experience has left me so optimistic!”
The CAN Virtual Job Fair officially wrapped up on February 26. But for countless individuals on the spectrum like Beau and Andrew, their employment journey has just begun. We cannot wait to see how this month-long experience impacts our community in the years to come.
Thank you to everyone involved in making the first-ever CAN Virtual Job Fair such a success for job seekers and employers alike!
- Retail: London Drugs, Meridian Farm Market & Stong’s Market
- Services: RBC, Ernst & Young, GroupHEALTH & KPMG (via Specialisterne)
- Trades & maintenance: Alliance Maintenance, BC Infrastructure Benefits Inc, BC Partners in Workforce Innovation & Industry Training Authority
- Service agencies: Back In Motion, CI Employment, posAbilities, Open Door Group, Orbital Learning, Ready, Willing & Able & WorkBC
- Programs: CAN Skills Training Employment Program (STEP), Douglas College Vocational Education and Skills Training (VEST), EmploymentWorks Canada (via Pacific Autism Family Network) & MentorAbility (via Inclusion BC)
- Live captioning & ASL translation provided by Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility