Gateway Association – Calgary wants to remove disability-based barriers to youth employment
The Gateway Association’s Job Seeker Support Program – Calgary aims to remove barriers to the labor market for youth with disabilities.
Gateway’s Ashton Bennett said they start breaking down barriers right from the start: their programming doesn’t require proof of disability. This is self-disclosure on the part of the applicant.
From there, it opens up a world of free, foundational skills development for program participants aged 15-34. Once enrolled, young Calgarians can gain experience in career search, access to post-secondary training, job placement, digital literacy training and more.
“It’s about individualized supports, and we work with where each individual is at, so the only real requirement, other than that disability-based hurdle, is just being motivated and ready to achieve your employment goals.” , Bennett said.
They acknowledge that there are other disability-focused support services. Bennett said eligibility criteria often limit access.
“We want to reach out to those for whom that term disability might not really resonate,” she said.
They are a pan-disability organization, Bennett said. This means that they work with people who have mental health, physical, developmental learning, medical and other issues that prevent them from participating in the workforce.
“We just really wanted to expand that area and not create an additional barrier for individuals to access these employment supports,” Bennett said.
“We work very hard to break down the stigma and barriers that exist for people who face these disability-related barriers. Especially the ones that are hidden or the ones that people are maybe a little more hesitant to disclose.
Develop learning, personal growth
Bennett said program participants are set up to succeed. Not only during the apprenticeship, but also in their job search. They have a placement success rate of over 85%.
With individualized learning, it caters to everyone’s needs. They chart the participant’s journey through any of their training programs. But the help doesn’t stop there.
They empower candidates in their job search and work with employers to facilitate career transition if necessary.
“Employers often feel a little nervous or unsure about how to support someone with a disability. We’re also here to help build their capacity and focus on improving their equity, diversity and inclusion practices,” Bennett said.
“The goal with participants and employers, we want everyone to feel like we’ve helped build their capacity to the point that they no longer need our support.”
It also offers a chance to break out of isolation – not just the pandemic variety, but the isolation that can often come with the perception of one’s condition.
“What we’re seeing is that individuals are actually coming to these workshops, to work on their skills, but they’re actually making these social connections,” Bennett said.
“They’re building community while working on those skills.”
Bennett said they are open to all young people with disability-related barriers – even those with experience in certain areas. They help participants find a fulfilling career path and then help them find a job. It’s not just for entry level positions.
They’ve worked with accountants, aspiring film and set designers, floral arrangers and commercial drivers – all full-time jobs.
“I can’t say enough amazing things about our team and our focus on building that rapport with individuals early on,” Bennett said.
“It just sets the tone.”
Weekly information sessions (Wednesdays) are offered to job seekers. There is also a newsletter to keep participants informed.
Visit the Gateway Association Job Seeker Support webpage for more information.