The 2014 Alberta Council of Disability Services (ACDS) Spring Conference – held in Edmonton this year, turned out to be one of the best Employment Conferences I’ve been to in a very long time. Although Employment Inclusion is not the primary focus of ACDS, they have seen the ‘writing on the wall’ and invested heavily in the promotion of information and training – even before the Alberta Government announced their commitment to Employment First in the spring of 2013.
This year’s ACDS Spring Conference featured two of the original American developers of Supported Employment, Dale DiLeo and Michael Callahan – both of whom are still very active in the field. DiLeo and Callahan are both accomplished Employment Inclusion authors and trainers, and their collective knowledge is an amazing resource to be present at any one conference. I had the pleasure of introducing Dale and acknowledging the impact he has had on my work over the years. As a an Employment Inclusion Trainer myself, it was great to attend his session and see him at work.
The more ‘local’ contributions to the conference were excellent as well. Tim Weinkauf; Director of Program Development and Innovation, and Gisela Kwok; Director of the Provincial Disability Supports Initiative (both from Alberta Human Services) presented the most current version of the Alberta Employment First Strategy, along with some very encouraging information about the province’s investment in Employment Inclusion. I consistently find this dialogue between government and service providers to afford excellent information exchange and deeper understanding of the issues and the requisite strategies to improve employment participation for the people we serve.
The presence of the Alberta Disability Workers Association (ADWA), and their excellent session on building a Community of Practice brought forward the pressing need for building the profession and creating mechanisms for dialogue. In addition, Associate Minister Naresh Bhardwaj from the Ministry of Human Services took the time to acknowledge the work being done in Alberta to facilitate employment inclusion as well as to announce new funding and resources to this end.
Finally, but not least, the collaboration between ACDS and the Cosmos Group of Red Deer to host a three night Hospitality Suite deserves a sincere thanks and a lingering smile. The opportunity to network in relaxed social environment at the end of the day and discuss ideas and developments with kindred spirits was much appreciated and very clearly enjoyed by all. Great conference ACDS – thanks!