Growing up with a disability is a reality for many. Kelowna has enjoyed a good reputation when it comes to providing sound education and employment prospects for those with a range of disabilities, and many of the city’s establishments have been setting an example for the whole country with the high standards they provide pupils. There is no doubt that education for people with disabilities has improved in recent years; however, a common worry experienced by all people in special education and their families is what will happen after school years.
Opportunities for school leavers
The federal government chose Kelowna as the location for its latest Strategies to Employment Forum, where many young people with disabilities were able to come along and learn more about the opportunities available to them after leaving school. The innovative forum, which is part of the government’s aim to create jobs for those with disabilities, saw employers connected with potential employees. Hosted by MP Ron Cannan, the forum recognized the tireless work of not for profit organization, the National Education Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), with which the government is partnering in order to achieve its aims of equal opportunity.
NEADS, which focuses on helping post-secondary pupils and recent graduates with disabilities get onto the career ladder, provides access to all the information and resources that are needed to find work. The organization provides support to people with disabilities while they are in education, aiming to then guide them through the transition period between education and employment. Students were invited to attend a range of workshops at the forum where they could learn a variety of essential skills such as interview techniques, writing a successful resume and planning their desired career paths.
Help for students with disabilities
Most universities in Canada now offer attractive resources and facilities for disabled students. The University of British Columbia for example, has a dedicated Disability Resource Centre that offers assistance to students studying its full range of degrees. Since it was introduced to the university, the Disability Resource Centre has offered students various types of assistance – in the form of both physical support and psychological support. One service the Centre offers is assistance with following syllabus literature; students studying towards a psychology degree, for example – which is heavily reliant on studying textbooks and research papers – can ask for support reading syllabus psychology textbooks and research from designated support workers trained in that specific degree. The Centre aims to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as their peers, and can provide them with the extra-curricular support needed with studying towards modules and exams.
Funding for disabilities
Last year, the Youth Awareness Program awarded NEADS more than $78,000 to help get young people with disabilities into rewarding careers through providing a series of educational forums throughout the country. Youth Awareness works with the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy (YES), which aims to equip young people with the skills needed to enter the workplace. YES receives more than $300 million of public funding each year, and much of this money is allocated towards ensuring that those with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as their peers when it comes to leaving school and finding a job. Not only does YES aim to help young people find jobs, but it provides the ongoing support they need in order to keep their jobs and develop long and prosperous career paths. YES received a further $50 million over a two year period from Economic Action Plan 2012 as part of a new initiative to match young Canadians in education with available jobs, helping them to gain the skills necessary to take them on.
The country’s Youth Employment Strategy is part of the Government of Canada’s focus in preparing the adults of tomorrow with the necessary skills in order to build and strengthen the country’s economy. It also aims to develop more educated, skilled and flexible working environments for all citizens, and to bridge the gap between education and employment regardless of disability, gender, race or background.