KES program opens new doors

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September is Disability Employment Month in BC and Kootenay Employment Services is marking the month by encouraging local businesses to consider hiring people with disabilities.

“Last year we focused on employees,” KES customized employment specialist Renee Bayley said last week. “In 2016 we are asking employers to recognize that there are people with disabilities who really want to work. They make great employees and we have support available to help them become valuable assets.”

In recent years the provincial government has poured resources into finding ways of getting people with disabilities of all descriptions into the workforce.

“This makes good business sense,” Bayley said. “Why? We make sure that an employee’s skill sets match the employer’s needs, and we have a pool of people with diverse skills. We make sure they are good matches and we have job coaches who will go to work with employees to ensure they get the training and support they need to succeed.”

The support program can run for 48 weeks and can be extended if the circumstances are warranted.

“We continue to keep in touch with both employee and employer afterward, too,” she said. “It makes financial sense because employees with disabilities tend to have a low job turnover rate, excellent attendance and their punctuality is impeccable.”

“They also have a lower rate of absenteeism for illness and they are incredibly loyal,” Heidi Germann chimed in. Germann is a client services supervisor with KES.

“They are also great promoters of their employers and spend their disposable income locally.”

Disabilities come in all forms, some visible and others not. But people with disabilities who are matched with the right employment situations can become invaluable assets. Local businesses that have hired workers with disabilities include Kokanee Ford, Lorne D. Mann Notary Public, Jimmy’s Pub and Art Foamies.

“But the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is shocking,” Bayley said. “It tends to run about 18 per cent above the unemployment average. And these really are employable people, who find success in a variety of workplaces, including retail, technical and construction. There is no business that we cannot support for clients with disabilities.”

Germann points out that an aging population means that more and more workers have disabilities of some sort, and that KES works to support them in a variety of ways.

“We can provide supports for people with hearing problems, for example. Assisted technology and modifications in the workplace can be made with financial support, too.”

“The reality is that more of us have a disability than we know—they just might not be obvious,” Bayley said. “If we can open our doors and look for ways to make people fit, everyone comes out ahead. We ask employers, ‘Are you or your skilled employees doing work that reduces efficiency?’ We can help by supporting workers who can do some of that work and free up others to do theirs.”

With the provincial government’s stated goal of making BC the most progressive place for people with disabilities in Canada by 2024, KES is working to make Creston a success story among small communities.

“KES is a leader in this sector,” Germann said.

Local businesses can expect to receive invitations later this month to attend a free business breakfast to celebrate some of Creston’s inclusive employers. The September 27 event will include networking opportunities, door prizes and local guest business speakers.

“Join us in making BC the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024,” Bayley said.

For more information about inclusive workplace supports, contact Renee Bayley or Darla Dyer at KES by calling 250-428-5655.

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