Yesterday, November 5th, two Career Edge Organization “staffers” Rizwan Abdul and Rima Dasgupta attended the 6th annual JOIN Conference Employing Individuals with Disabilities – Strategies on inclusion, Recruitment and Retention.
First some information on JOIN. Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN), for Persons with Disabilities is a network of 50 community agencies who deliver ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) Employment Supports in Toronto and Central East Region. JOIN affiliates assist persons living with disabilities to find and maintain employment, and assist employers looking to recruit qualified candidates with disabilities to meet their hiring needs.
Now more about the annual conference. The JOIN Annual conference is an event that facilitates discussion among various stakeholders about hiring, retaining and promoting employees with disabilities. The Annual conference is widely seen as a leading event for businesses, not-for-profit sector organizations and public sector employers working with individuals with disabilities.
Career Edge Organization, one of the founding members of the JOIN Toronto Region Business Leadership Network was pleased to attend this year’s JOIN conference. From our perspective, it was an excellent learning experience and we are pleased to observe that once again (and despite widespread recessionary constraints in effect) there was a great turnout as new businesses become members of JOIN and are taking a proactive approach by hiring persons with disabilities (PWD’s).
Our staff who participated in the event were very encouraged that many employers attending including Scotiabank, the lead event sponsor organization are also Career Edge Organization host employers who recognize us as a key player among organizations that work in the area of integrating PWD’s in the workplace through the Ability Edge paid internship program. This year’s conference has seen many new employers participating but we encourage new employer involvement to keep the momentum created by JOIN on track. Hiring qualified persons with disabilities is a proven key business enabler – we hear that loud and clear from many of the host organizations that we partner with to provide graduates with disabilities meaningful work experience throught the Ability Edge program.
The keynote address by Dr. Jennifer Arnold was very inspirational as she narrated her journey as a person with disability and her experiences in overcoming the barriers to become a Pediatrician, neonatal specialist, professor and a reality TV star. The various sessions conducted by members of JOIN were also very informative as they discussed their key learnings and best practices working with employees with disabilities.
The sharing was phenomenal! Some of the key learnings from the sessions were that hiring, retaining and promoting PWD’s is an ongoing learning process and no one can claim to be the experts in the area. Notable best practices that can be emulated from these employers is that open communication between all key holders including the employees with a disability is crucial in integrating these employees and removing the barriers to their integration in the workforce.