Supported Employment Success in Meadow Lake
22 Apr 2013
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Adventures in Supported Employment

By Joy McKinnon, Supported Employment Transition Initiative (SETI) Coordinator

On March 19, 2013, Multiworks Corporation, a SARC Member, hosted an Employer Appreciation Luncheon to celebrate Supported Employment in Meadow Lake, and I got the chance to attend.  The response to the event was tremendous in the community and guests were treated to a delicious meal and excellent speakers. Read all about the event in more detail here.   

The day after the luncheon, eleven employees of Multiworks and the School Division attended a Job Coach workshop. Since so many clients have had success in finding employment there was a need to train people to support the new employees, and their employers, to continue the success on the job.  The day- long workshop focused on the “how” and the “when” to intervene as a job coach and also how to “fade away”, as the employee transitions into their new role.  There were several “ah-ha” moments and the response from attendees has been very positive.  The general message of the day was “anyone can work given the right support”. 

But that’s the end of the story and I think the beginning is what needs to be told.

In December of 2011, Dave Thickett, the Executive Director of Multiworks, had a conversation with me regarding opportunities for employment for individuals with disabilities. He said that in the past there had been an active Supported Employment program, but the appetite for the program had diminished with the employers.  He was aware of the Supported Employment Transition Initiative but was a little skeptical about its usefulness in his community.  “Things have changed” I piped up, and proceeded to explain SARC’s vision for Supported Employment, and he was intrigued, and so began the journey.

Multiworks Corporation, along with their partner, the North West School Division applied for funding through SETI for 2012-13, and, in February 2012, they received approval from the SETI steering committee.  But clear sailing was not in the immediate future for the project.  Due to changes in the structuring of the education budget, the School Division was unable to provide financial support.  A decision was made to develop and run the program full time for half the year on SETI funds alone.  Mr. Jim Hurd was hired as program facilitator and the project finally took shape in September 2012.  Mr. Hurd’s experience in Human Resources, and strong ties to the community, made him an invaluable asset to the program, in addition to the School division, who was also an integral part of the plan. 

Mr. Hurd’s first class at the school involved eight students planning to leave school and begin life as an adult.  He spent eight weeks in the class room with these students preparing them for life after school and “what”, “where”, and “when” they would proceed into the job market.  In addition, Mr. Hurd was working simultaneously with a group of candidates from Multiworks on the same skills.  In the end, all eight from the school and several from the workshop became employed and remain employed in the community. 

In January 2013, the second class started and again Mr. Hurd guided the participants through the steps to employment and no matter what the challenges were they were able to secure employment in a field of their own choosing within the community they live.

The success of this program squarely lies on the shoulders of Mr. Hurd, Multi-Works Corporation, North West School Division, the dedication and desire of the individuals wishing to find employment and the business community of Meadow Lake.  I am so inspired by their journey thus far and I wait with baited breath to see what the new project funding brings.  

To all of the organizations and individuals involved in this project, congratulations, on a hugely successful project!

-Joy McKinnon

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