The first question people ask in social situations is, “what is your name?” The next question is, “what do you do?” Too many British Columbians with disabilities do not have a good answer to the second question.
A network of business leaders in B.C. are focused on closing the gap of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. They believe embracing a diverse and inclusive workforce is not only the right thing to do – it’s good business.
B.C.’s labour shortage has an expected 900,000 job openings by 2028. Despite this, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is still 11.6%; much higher than the rate for people without disabilities at 7.1%.
With 334,000 working age British Columbians who have a disability, people with disabilities represent a robust and largely untapped labour market.
Building an Inclusive Workforce
The Presidents Group, a network of change-driven B.C. business leaders who are champions for more accessible, inclusive workplaces. Member organizations range in size and industry, but all believe that disabilities should not be a barrier to employment, and that they have a role to play to change this belief.
Presidents Group member Lisa Beecroft owns Gabi & Jules Bakery in Port Moody. With a small staff of 20 employees, 35% of the bakery’s employees identify with a disability. Their path to inclusive employment started with the need for a delivery driver.
Gabi & Jules worked with the Pacific Autism Centre to find the right candidate, and hired Conrad in a part-time position. Beecroft provided slight workplace adjustments that fit Conrad’s needs. For example, Conrad’s schedule was modified to deliver at non-peak times to avoid the anxiety that can be triggered with a bustling lunchtime café. Not only did this make sense for Conrad, it made great business sense for Gabi & Jules – deliveries are more efficient during non-peak times. Conrad continues to be a loyal employee at the bakery, and has encouraged Beecroft to continue with her inclusive hiring practices.
Save On Meats
Presidents Group member and small business owner, Mark Brand (Save on Meats) has a passion for finding opportunities for those who face barriers to employment. Save On Meats is a local diner with a rich-history in Vancouver’s downtown eastside district. With the support of an organization called Open Door Group, they’ve been able to provide meaningful job opportunities to longtime friends Brad and Randy who used to live in poverty. Brad, who had previous culinary experience, was supported by the Open Door Group during the hiring process and this helped him to land a job as a dishwasher.
Randy too had experience working in a kitchen, but as someone who identifies as having a disability, he was finding it even more difficult to find a steady culinary job in Vancouver. After a year and a half of seeing Brad excel at Save On Meats and getting to know the staff, he joined the team as a dishwasher, alongside Brad.
Both men quickly became an integral part of the team, supporting the meal program and back of house. Brad worked his way up from being a dishwasher and now preps and cooks over 750 meals per day for Save On Meat’s Single Room Occupancy (SRO) partners, and proudly serves individuals in the homeless community he was once a part of. He also happens to make “the best damn waffles in Vancouver” according to Ash MacLeod, Save On Meats’ Director of Operations.
Today, Brad and Randy are no longer on welfare, they live independently and have been employed full-time by Save on Meats for a collective 9 years. When asked about their employment journey, Brad said “Save On Meats is like family to me…it’s nice serving meals to people too,” Randy added “It’s nice to have employment that’s steady and dependable.”
Thanks to partnerships with community organizations, both Save On Meats and Gabi & Jules have employed people with disabilities and allowed them to show their value to the organization. As September is Disability Employment Month, visit www.accessibleemployers.ca to access more stories and download free resources and tools.