A New Day For Employment Inclusion - March 14, 2013

The world of employment inclusion and capacity building for individuals and organizations alike would appear to be getting a much needed injection of energy this year. It seems sometimes as though forces conspire to create the perfect conditions for everyone involved. These are rare occurrences which must be acted upon for the rewards to be reaped.  Three short months into 2013 and we’re seeing fireworks at the policy level and paradigm shifts that verge on ‘tectonic.’ Change is most certainly in the air for the new fiscal year  - and the air is fresh!

In July 2012, the Government of Canada appointed a panel to consult with employers, organizations and individuals on the labour market participation of people with disabilities. The results were published in early 2013 in a report titled Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector – now on the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada website. The report is an excellent overview of the business case for the employment inclusion of people with disabilities – as well as a great guide for employers around the ‘selection’ of community partners to help them achieve their inclusive recruitment goals.

Occurring almost simultaneously, the Mental Health Commission of Canada launched their National Mental Health Strategy in May 2012 and then championed the development of a Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standard, which was launched in January 2013. Although the standard is currently voluntary, there is writing on the wall that it will eventually be integrated into Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Standards. The standard is focused on psychological health in the workplace, better management and leadership techniques and reducing workplace stress. It is a veritable roadmap to happier, more productive work environments.

Yesterday in Alberta, Persons with Developmental Disabilities, (PDD), a department within the Ministry of Human Services, hosted a Service Provider Summit wherein a strong new focus on employment inclusion for people with disabilities emerged. Assistant Deputy Minister, Brenda Lee Doyle, spoke of a movement towards an Employment First model and a cessation of government funding for segregated environments and sheltered workshops for people with developmental disabilities. The summit also revealed details of the 2013-2014 fiscal year PDD budget which includes a (modest) increase for employment support funding.

This is a lot of progress at the systemic level in less than a year! The pre-requisite conditions are clearly aligning to foster healthier, happier, more inclusive workplaces. The stage has been set and people appear to be ready to act. Given our aging labour force and the imminent need for employers to engage in inclusive recruitment and retention strategies, these policy developments are helping to bridge the gap and connect employers with the job-seekers and new ideas they need.

I for one, am stoked - and I hope you are too; these are perfect conditions for progress.  

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