We all use whatever contacts we can to find employment
For many of us who have been involved with the process of finding a job, it is very likely that we have found employment at some point through a personal contact. Winnipeg, in particular, seems to be engaged with this kind of hiring trend; employers like to have a point of reference, and even if they don’t directly know the individual being hired, that point of reference makes employers more comfortable with the person being hired.
SCE LifeWorks’ staff who support individuals in the effort to find employment know this all too well. The best job leads (with fair compensation, supported work environments and engaging social interaction) are much more likely to come from a personal contact rather than a “cold call” (a call to a prospective employer with no prior relationship or common contact).
Terry Youmans, who is employed in the Environmental Protection Branch of Environment Canada, understands this dynamic as well. Being a founding parent of SCE LifeWorks, as well as a parent of a young man supported by SCE LifeWorks, Terry knows that the individuals supported by SCE LifeWorks are often already dealing with stigmas and assumptions from society. As a result, it is even more important to count more on “warm” contacts rather than “cold” calls.
For the past few years, Terry has been exploring opportunities in his own workplace to see if an individual supported by SCE LifeWorks could eventually be hired by Environment Canada. By openly discussing his aspirations with his colleagues, Terry not only found support from co-workers, but a sharing of his vision from two particular colleagues. Grant McCulloch, Program Engineer, and Barry Briscoe, Manager of the Manitoba Division, heard Terry out and bought in to his vision. Though it took time to work through some of the barriers, regular discussion reinforced the commitment of these three individuals to make it work. Both Terry and Grant credit Barry for seizing an opportunity to implement “employment equity” principles in a way that might initially be somewhat more challenging and time consuming, but really captured the spirit of the employment equity program. The development of such a principled process would pay dividends through the resulting positive, inclusive and socially engaging work environment.
This ongoing dialogue between Terry, Barry, Grant, and other EC colleagues, resulted in a work experience position for Waqas Awan (an individual supported by SCE LifeWorks) that started in September 2003. After Waqas demonstrated his abilities to his new colleagues, he was hired as a part-time General Office Clerk, where he assists with data entry, recycling and the ordering and distribution of office supplies.
Waqas has been embraced by his co-workers as a valued team member. “Waqas is not an ‘outsider’ or an ‘SCE LifeWorks supported employee’, but is viewed as a fellow employee whose contribution is appreciated,” stated Grant McCulloch. Waqas confirmed this, saying that he “really enjoys working as a team player in a strong team environment”.
Terry and Grant were quick to point out the significant role that Barry played in this success story, and pointed out how Barry, as Manager, “took the extra time and made the extra effort to do this right”. But in the end, the group clearly identified Terry as the linchpin in this employment effort. His vision and long term committment were clearly the reason the initiative has met with success. “Though this took time to implement, Terry wasn’t going to let this go and persisted to ensure that we would eventually hire someone like Waqas”. The group has also indicated that they plan to pursue other employment possibilities for individuals like Waqas in Environment Canada and other federal departments in Winnipeg.
Having gone through this experience, Terry encourages other families and SCE LifeWorks partners to consider exploring their own workplace in the same way, and has these suggestions:
· Take some time to think about some job opportunities for individuals
supported by SCE LifeWorks that might exist in your workplace for
individuals supported by SCE LifeWorks and write them down
· Do some brainstorming with supportive co-workers. You might be
surprised what can be accomplished over a few cups of coffee
· Talk to SCE LifeWorks staff about some examples of job placements
and duties at other work places
· Think through your ideas - have some specific ideas ready for
presentation to your supervisor or manager
· Try to anticipate roadblocks and resistance - if possible, have some
information ready to counter any resistance you might encounter
· Persevere...Persevere...Persevere...like most things in life, if it was
easy it would have already been done!
· Many larger organizations may have an employment equity plan; suggest to a manager that you have some ideas on how the organization can
work towards achieving this plan
Thanks to Terry, Grant, Barry and everyone at Environment Canada (Environmental Protection Branch) for successfully developing and maintaining an inclusive and diverse work environment!