Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
WHAT IS IT?
The Rotary Employment Partnership is a joint project between Rotary clubs and Community Living Associations and other agencies. The goal of the Rotary Employment Partnership is to create meaningful, paid, full or part-time employment opportunities for people with developmental and other disabilities.
‘REAL WORK FOR REAL PAY’
Youth and adults with developmental disabilities are really no different than the rest of us. They desire employment and career opportunities and want to be recognized, and paid, for their abilities and contributions.
Despite the demand for good workers in many sectors of the economy, and despite many studies which confirm that persons with disabilities make excellent employees and are highly valued by their co-workers, people with developmental disabilities continue to experience a 70% unemployment or underemployment rate. It is unlikely this will change unless the community of businesses and employers, of which many Rotarians are a part, steps forward to hire people with developmental disabilities.
The Rotary Employment Partnership is designed to provide information, support and resources to Rotarians willing to take this step in their business or at their work place. If a work opportunity is identified, experienced staff from a Community Living Agency (or other organization that specializes in serving people with disabilities) will identify people who are looking for work and have the necessary skills and capacity to match the needs of the business or work place. They can provide assistance in evaluating the workplace for suitability, customizing job descriptions to accommodate special needs, and secure on-the-job coaching, support and follow-up for as long as necessary.
We encourage all Rotary Clubs and members to participate in this initiative. In doing so, they can make a wonderful difference in the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Together we can help them realize their dreams for meaningful, paid employment and a greater inclusion in community life that will enrich us all.
There are a number of great success stories that have come out of the Rotary Employment Partnership. Several of these have been featured in a short documentary film made by Jim Elderton and award winning film maker and Rotarian. It is called ‘Real Work for Real Pay and can be viewed by clicking here.
This success story was submitted by by Jack Jamieson, Former Editor and Publisher of the Armstrong Advertiser and active member of the Armstrong Rotary Club in Area 3.
In 2008, Kathryn was introduced to me at the Armstrong Advertiser by an employment facilitator from Kindale Developmental Association. They were inquiring whether there might be part time work for her at the newspaper office. As a member in the Armstrong Rotary I was already aware of the Rotary Employment Partnership and supported its goals. I decided to give this young woman with a developmental disability a chance to become a paid, part-time employee.
Kathryn was given a list of weekly jobs that had to be done. They included inserting flyers into the papers before they were delivered to subscribers and the twice-weekly cleaning of the floors. She was also responsible to make sure garbage and recyclable materials were collected, sorted and placed in pick-up locations and to ensure that the bathroom and darkroom were dusted and cleaned and the plants watered. Greg, from Kindale, checked in at least once a week and was available to help if any problems developed.
Kathryn quickly discovered that there were other jobs that she could do. Now she assists with filing materials such as printing job dockets and bound newspaper files in the storage area. When required, she also helps clean the windows in the office and makes sure the displays are in order and maintained.
Kathryn always comes to work with a cheerful greeting and gets right to her tasks. She has become a valuable part of our staff and we’re all glad to have her with us. Based on my experience I would encourage other Rotarians to find ways to include people with disabilities in their businesses and places of work. It’s a win for everyone!
HISTORY OF THE PARTNERSHIP
The Rotary Employment Partnership (REP) began as a collaboration between Rotary Clubs in Edmonton, the Alberta Association for Community Living (AACL) and various other organizations. Wendy McDonald, Past President of the Edmonton Mayfield Club, initiated the development of the Partnership. Her inspiration was Past International President Frank Devlin’s call to “create awareness of the needs and talents of people with disabilities” and to “take action by working in partnership with local organizations to train and find employment for people with disabilities in your community.”
To date the Rotary Employment Partnership in the Edmonton area has created more than 60 full and part time paid jobs in a variety of sectors including manufacturing, software, professional services and the supply and service industry.
The REP has since expanded to other clubs in Alberta as well as other provinces in Canada - with great results. In 2007 this initiative was introduced to British Columbia and is being championed by the Armstrong Rotary Club in the North Okanagan area of BC. To date, several clubs, in cooperation with local Service Agencies in the Thompson/Okanagan region, have expressed interest in this initiative. Meetings, with representatives from Armstrong, Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kamloops and Kelowna were held on a regular basis during 2008 to promote, strengthen and expand the partnership.