There are great programs and services available to students and recent graduates with disabilities in Canada.
With the unemployment rate for new grads being almost twice the national average, finding employment can be challenging. In order to set yourself apart and have a speedy and successful launch to your career it is important to take advantage of as many career programs as possible as you’ll never know where you’ll end up finding your big break.
Sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin. As an Employment Specialist, here are a few Canadian programs and services that I’ve seen some great success stories emerge from. Using these programs to their full advantage will give you the opportunity to shine – you may develop personal connections with recruiters, build your professional network and significantly improve your chances of landing that dream job.
College and University Career Centre Events and Information Sessions
I find that school career centres are often not fully appreciated and utilized by the student population until it is too late. Your school’s career centre is a great place to find networking opportunities and to prepare for hiring processes including practicing interview skills and preparation for networking sessions.
Employers often host special recruitment sessions for students and recent graduates with disabilities to raise awareness about their inclusive hiring practices and accommodations/support on the job. Contact your Career Centre to learn about upcoming sessions, and to set up an appointment with a Career Consultant to develop and practice your networking skills to secure an informational or a job interview. A career consultant can help guide you through the recruitment process, assist you in determining if the opportunity and organization is the right fit for you and help craft the right questions to ensure the role is aligned with your career objective, accommodates your needs and has an environment compatible with your work style.
Lime Connect Canada
Lime Connect Canada offers recruitment sessions and employment opportunities for students, recent graduates and professionals with disabilities mainly in the IT and financial sector. Their corporate partners include well-known companies such as PepsiCo, IBM and several banking institutions in Canada.
This not-for-profit organization offers three distinct programs for persons with disabilities in Canada: Corporate Recruitment Sessions, Scholarships and Internship Programs. You can sign up on their website to receive email notifications of upcoming recruitment receptions, events, job posting and webinars by joining the Lime Connect network on their website.
If you would like to share information about upcoming opportunities and programs you can register as a Friend of Lime Network. Lime Connect Canada also visits post-secondary institutions to share program information to prospective participants. You can follow them on social media and visit their website to learn more about their program offerings and upcoming events.
To attend a recruitment reception you must submit an application, if participating employers feel as though your skills and experience would be suitable for potential roles at their organization, you will receive an invitation for the session. These receptions are great networking opportunities to engage with recruiters and build your professional network. Come prepared to speak about your experience and research the companies attending.
Ability Edge (AE) Program
For students that are about to or have recently graduated, obtaining a paid internship might be a great opportunity to build experience and assist with the transition from school to work.
Ability Edge is a 4-12 month Canada-wide internship program for recent graduates that offers a stipend to help cover your expenses. A part of a larger internship program run by Career Edge Organization, they partner with hundreds of employers, offering numerous professional development opportunities. The program typically offers positions where you’ll be competing against a much smaller group of your peers for a position versus most full-time opportunities.
A paid internship is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door with an employer and is an excellent way to build your skills and professional network. Each intern is assigned a mentor to help with his or her transition to work, with advice including managing projects/tasks and understanding workplace culture. You can register with their site to view the current internship postings and submit applications for opportunities of interest.
As an Employment Specialist providing career advising and employment services to persons with disabilities, I find many people are unsure of how to approach accommodation and disclosure through the recruitment and onboarding process. These programs and services are ideal for persons wanting to remove this barrier to focus their attention on their skills and abilities. I have seen many individuals benefiting from these programs and services to build their professional networks, gain informational and job interviews and employment.