Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 23, 2016 - 11:45 am

Nunavut disabilities group goes job hunting for clients

NDMS touting the benefits of inclusive hiring: loyalty, reliability, diligence

LISA GREGOIRE
Carla Qualtrough, former paralympian, now federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities, rolls banana macaroon cookies March 11 with Iqaluit's Amanda Arnarjuaq, who works for the Inclusion Café, an Iqaluit café and catering services which employs people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Nunavut's disability society is partnering with local businesses to match clients with vacant jobs. (PHOTO BY LISA GREGOIRE)
Carla Qualtrough, former paralympian, now federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities, rolls banana macaroon cookies March 11 with Iqaluit's Amanda Arnarjuaq, who works for the Inclusion Café, an Iqaluit café and catering services which employs people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Nunavut's disability society is partnering with local businesses to match clients with vacant jobs. (PHOTO BY LISA GREGOIRE)

Trying to keep someone on the job in Iqaluit can be difficult.

A transient population and fierce local competition for labour can mean a revolving door of hiring for businesses in Nunavut’s capital.

So ask Ed Keddy who some of his longest-serving employees are at Ventures Marketplace in Iqaluit and you might be surprised: they’re people living with disabilities.

“It’s something we’re really proud to be a part of,” said Keddy. “And it’s something we’re hoping to expand.”

Keddy said Ventures, now that it’s part of Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., has a policy of inclusive hiring and he currently employs six people who have physical and-or intellectual disabilities.

They are cashiers and grocery clerks and some work in the preparation area, Keddy said, and they are some of his most loyal, reliable employees.

One staff member has been working at Ventures for more than five years, he said — before it was even purchased by the ACL.

“Not only is the turnover lower, these individuals are ultra-reliable and loyal. Giving an individual a chance, we find they pay back multiple-fold. They are hard-working. So yes, there’s a distinct benefit.”

Carolyn Curtis, project manager for the Nunavut Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society, singled out Ventures recently for its hiring policies. She is now actively partnering with other Iqaluit businesses to match job seekers with vacancies in town.

Curtis, who also runs the Inclusion Café catering service in Iqaluit, said hiring a person with a disability used to be considered a burden for employers, a kind of do-good handout for the “less fortunate.”

“It was a real challenge. I think there was a lot of fear around what would be involved and what accommodations would be necessary,” said Curtis, sitting at the Iqaluit soup kitchen recently.

Curtis is turning that idea on its head by pointing out what employers can often gain through inclusive hiring: loyalty, job motivation, retention and even bilingualism.

Employers just need a little support, she said. And the Makinnasuaqtiit Society is prepared to offer it.

The disabilities network has recently launched a campaign to raise awareness around disability hiring and to let local businesses know that the society can be a valuable local resource.

Curtis knows which of her clients are looking for jobs so she helps them prepare a resume and cover letter and then contacts employers when she sees job ads that mesh with their skills and aptitudes.

The society then offers job coaching for the newly hired and helps clients fill out the necessary paperwork that comes with starting a new job.

“Basically, we can be an extension of their human resources department,” Curtis said. “We want to offer that service.”

To find out more about the barriers preventing businesses from hiring people with disabilities, the Makinnasuaqtiit Society has launched an online survey to gather local opinions and concerns.

The society is hoping the survey, which you can get to here in three languages, provides some practical information to guide their actions going forward.

Curtis said she is in the process of meeting with businesses around town as well, to gather that information directly, to answer any questions people might have and to see if there are any job vacancies that her clients might be able to fill.

“It’s just starting,” Curtis said. “We want to work out the kinks but there are people here who are ready and willing to work. This is an untapped resource and we want to help employers tap into it.”

Curtis said she has commitments from employers to hire eight of her current clients including Keddy, who is planning to hire two more.

Keddy said some staff who have disabilities might not have the same communication skills as others, for example, so it helps to have Carolyn as a job liaison and coach.

“That definitely mitigates any issues we might have because they provide assistance and training. So there hasn’t really been a down side,” Keddy said. 

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