Company: Government of Manitoba
Innovation: Employment of Youth with a Disability Strategy
Award Recognition: Honorable Mention

Employment is critical to ensuring inclusion and full participation in society. However, research indicates that youth with a disability are more likely to experience unemployment or underemployment. This is why the Manitoba government has developed and implemented a three-part strategy to support their transition from education to employment.

The first element is the ‘Career Options for Students with Disability’ program, which assists students with a disability transition from school to work through meaningful work and career exploration opportunities. Using inclusive recruitment practices, qualified students are recruited, matched with summer or part-time employment opportunities in various departments, and provided accommodation if required. Program coordinators monitor placements and provide support if required to ensure placements are mutually beneficial. This program placed fifty students in 2012 and 2013in 2012/13. and feedback regarding performance has been overwhelmingly positive.

Next, in partnership with not for profit SCE Lifeworks, the Manitoba government has implemented ‘Project Search’, a school-to-work transition program for students with an intellectual disability. This first-in-Canada program provides students in their final year of high school with in-class instruction in employability and independent living skills, and work experience placements in the departments based on their skills and abilities. Students are also supported by a team including a certified teacher and job coach. The majority of participants later obtained competitive employment; , including some Project Search students were subsequently hired by the Manitoba government.

The third part of the strategy is an initiative launched in 2012 by the Manitoba government to establish a talent inventory of ‘Career Options for Students with Disability’ and ‘Project Search’ program participants. Departments are actively using this inventory to fill technical and professional positions, having hired twenty students with a disability in three months.

The benefits of this strategy have exceeded all expectations:

• Qualified youth with a disability receive meaningful work experience that led to competitive employment.

• Hiring managers increasingly seek candidates from this strong talent pool made accessible through the strategy, helping break down attitudinal barriers regarding hiring persons with a disability.

• Recognizing that increasing accessibility for employees increases accessibility for all citizens, departments have identified and removed barriers in their practices and facilities, also contributing to more respectful and inclusive workplaces for all employees.