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WorkBC Vernon helping people of all abilities thrive in the workforce

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
WorkBC offers a wide-range of services to area employers and those looking for work at its Vernon office. (WorkBC photo)

There is an untapped market for North Okanagan businesses looking for solutions to the national labour shortage.

It’s a workforce full of capable workers who reward their chance to work with loyalty.

That’s the message WorkBC Vernon shared during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October).

“There’s an opportunity to engage in the workforce in a way that wasn’t possible before. This really is an untapped labour pool for our local businesses,” says Kim Lauritsen, employment services manager at Vernon’s WorkBC Centre.

“We have people who have amazing skill sets that just maybe need a slight change in traditional employment, and we want employers to know we’re here to help support that.”

The local centre helps employers find the right person for their position to grow their business, all while helping people find jobs, explore their career options and improve their skills.

Employment services advisors connect people with disabilities to jobs where they can thrive. Advisors work with clients to identify their skills and offer workshops and on-the-job training support. After building a profile, the advisors work with local employers to find the right fit.

That was the employment path for JK, who is now thriving at organic food delivery service Farm Bound with the help of with the help of WorkBC employment services advisors Jerry Ward and Celena Sandaker.

“JK is such a great person and really cares about her job,” said Jaye Siegmueller, CEO of Farm Bound. “She goes out of her way to do extra little things for her coworkers.”

READ MORE: Vernon-based company lands gem of employee from WorkBC

When hiring with support from WorkBC, employers can access job placement services that match candidates with the right roles; a wage subsidy program to help with the cost of training new staff; and on-the-job support with employment services advisors.

Lauritsen says people with disabilities have much to offer the workforce, and when businesses recognize that, everyone benefits.

According to Disability Inclusion, inclusive companies are 120 per cent more likely to hit financial targets. Lauritsen says many inclusive businesses in the North Okanagan have seen similar results.

“One of the things we’ve experienced when employers diversify their workplace is a stronger commitment from employees,” said Lauritsen. “When employers are investing in employees, they feel like they’re an important part of the business. There’s a mutual investment that happens.”

WorkBC provides specialized services for people with disabilities to help reduce the impact of disability-related barriers. The services are designed to meet job seekers where they’re at.

“We work with people to explore their skill set and understand their goals,” said Lauritsen. “And we’re there to support them in not just finding but maintaining a job. We also work directly with the employer to make sure everyone has the support they need.”

For Harl Rowe, who started working at FreshCo in 2021 with the help of WorkBC Employment Services and Kindale, that meant monthly check-ins with advisors Ward and Sandaker.

“Because of FreshCo, because of WorkBC and Jerry and Celena, I know there are people there, even though I operate during the hours when everyone is asleep,” says Rowe, who quickly grew into an overnight shift lead position with FreshCo.

WorkBC Employment Services are available to people at all stages of employment.

“We hope that, when someone is changing jobs or moving forwards in life, WorkBC Employment Services can help them transfer or get additional support in their current role so they can stay in a position if it’s a good fit,” said Lauritsen.

Students with disabilities in the last year of high school or post-secondary can also reach out to the Vernon WorkBC Centre to find a job that’s just right.

“Over the last few years, we’ve encouraged more people to acknowledge their disability, but know that it doesn’t define them,” said Lauritsen. “The more we’re open about disabilities, the more people feel comfortable accessing services to help them thrive in the workforce.”

READ MORE: WorkBC helps Vernon amputee on long road to self-employment

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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