Career Edge Blog

Happy to JOIN – CEO takes in JOIN’s annual conference on hiring persons with disabilities

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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.

More than employment expertise

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Career Edge Organization would like to thank the University of Toronto Mississauga Career Centre for inviting us to participate in a panel discussion yesterday.

As a panelist, our own Janice Rudkowski, Director of Marketing and Communications, shared her experiences in the marketing industry with eager, wide-eyed students who came from a variety of academic backgrounds from business management to anthropology!

One of the key insights Janice offered was on the topic of networking. Job seekers are often told that persistence and networking are the key to penetrating the job market but as employers, we all know how frustrating it is to be bombarded with pleading emails, voice-mails and LinkedIn requests from people you have never met. In a competitive environment like this one, employers may begin to feel like everyone is asking something of them.

“Ask yourself, what can I do for them?” Janice suggested to the would-be marketers.

She stressed that it is quality, not quantity that counts when it comes to building relationships, pointing out that relationships built on mutual benefit are the way to go, not networking for the sake of building a contact list.

Janice also told the group not to take it personally if an interview doesn’t result in a job offer, saying that it is often a matter of fit rather than qualifications and that “they may actually be doing you a favour!” Because working in an environment where the fit isn’t right is not an experience anyone wants.

Claire Westgate, Coordinator and Employer Services at UTM, organized the “Careers in Marketing Night at the University of Toronto Mississauga” in partnership with their Student Marketing Association, and did a fantastic job moderating the panel discussion.

Janice holds an MBA and has an extensive background in marketing including private sector experience in Brand Management, Category Management, Licensing, Sales and Retail across a number of industry sectors including Consumer Packaged Goods, Toys and Consumer Healthcare.

CEO gets “Brazen” with young professionals

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Since Brazen Careerist was kind enough to feature our post on their blog today, we thought we’d take the opportunity to let employers know about this interesting new website and career management tool.

Founded by Penelope Trunk, Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh in August 2007, Brazen Careerist is a social networking site for young professionals looking to share more than their profiles. It’s a bit of a hybrid of various popular social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, all wrapped in one.

Brazen Careerist describes itself as “an online community and career center for Generation Y.” It’s a place where young professionals can exchange ideas and insights about topics relevant to the next generation. It is also intended to be a tool for managing their online brand. Creating a positive and professional online presence is a key issue for the Facebook generation as they transition from student life to work life. Brazen Careerist is accessible to employers who wish to learn more about Gen Y and witness unrealized talent at work.

Today’s youth face a challenging work environment. Many graduated in a recession and saw youth unemployment skyrocket. They have little relevant work experience and are generally stereotyped as being transient, demanding and unwilling to pay their dues. Our study (which you can read about on Brazen Careerist) showed that these stereotypes are not true and the employers we work with know that recent graduates bring talent, education and a fresh perspective to the workplace. It is wonderful to see this generation has created a forum where they can properly represent themselves.

Paid internships: A postgraduate education

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Career Edge Organization Alumni Network Logo

Earlier this week, Career Edge Organization reached out to nearly eight thousand of its former interns to introduce a new initiative, the Alumni Network.

As part of our continuing efforts to give more to our stakeholders, we want the individuals who have gone through our program to know that we haven’t forgotten about them and that we have more to give.

Many of our Alumni have become Host Employers who now hire interns from us. We launched their careers and now they are doing the same for others. Our Alumni have also participated in past reunion events and mentoring programs. Due to the excellent level of engagement we saw, we have decided to offer more.

To kick things off, we made a call for volunteers to sit on a committee that will steer the direction of the programs and services we offer Alumni. I couldn’t believe the positive response we got and want to thank everyone so far who took the time to complete an application.

Among the interesting responses I received, several people asked this question: How can a career services organization have Alumni? So I did what anyone would do – I Googled the word Alumni.

As defined in most places, an alumnus can be a graduate of an educational institution or can refer to a former employee, member, participant or contributor. In our case I think any of those definitions can apply.

Our three programs give recent graduates and internationally qualified professionals their first relevant Canadian work experience. When they complete an internship they have advanced from one of the most important educational experiences of their lives.

A paid internship isn’t just a contract or a temporary job. Our partner employers provide a career-launching experience in a supportive learning environment. So when they complete their internships, in a way, they have graduated.

We don’t give them caps and gowns and we don’t play pomp and circumstance as they leave the office, but we know that our Alumni have advanced through a competitive process and we want to continue to celebrate their future successes.

Vital Signs Weak for Youth Employment

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“The future economic prosperity is in the hands of this generation,” according to Sonja Stockton, head of recruitment for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In an interview on their website, Stockton was addressing the global issue of rising youth unemployment.

A report released earlier this month by Community Foundations of Canada found that youth employment was declining faster than any other demographic.

Canada’s Vital Signs 2009 reports that the unemployment rate is 16.3 per cent for youth, around double the unemployment rate for the general population.

It’s no wonder Millennials have been dubbed “Generation Y Me?”

Stockton went on to say:

“It will not be a quick fix, but if we get it right, we could have a generation that has learned some of the hardest business lessons, quicker and more effectively than many of the generations in full time employment.”

Many of the perceptions about this generation of youth are false stereotypes perpetuated by studies that look at Gen Y as a homogenous group, not taking cultural diversity into account. Older studies on Gen Y may be obsolete now anyway, as the recession and current youth unemployment rates have a significant impact on attitudes and values about working in Canada.

In our upcoming posts, we will be using the blog to share insights about Generation Y from our recent study conducted with Porter Novelli and Angus Reid Strategies (click here to read the press release), so stay tuned!

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