Teens and government came together Monday as the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, visited CanAssist at the University of Victoria met with students to hear firsthand experiences from the TeenWork program to mark the first anniversary of the project’s expansion.
“A job is more than just a way to earn money. We know that’s a very big part of having a job, but it’s also being part of a community, feeling that you have purpose… I felt that coming through all those young people today,” said Hajdu.
Through the Skills Link program, the Government of Canada provides over $2.1 million to CanAssist to support 80 youth with disabilities in Victoria and Vancouver in developing skills they need to get a foothold in the labour market.
TeenWork was developed in 2009 to address the need for employment support among youth with disabilities while they’re still in high school.
“I work with a lot of young people myself and I could tell you it’s the innovation and the ingenuity of young people that helps us excel at everything we do,” said Hajdu.
TeenWork provides hands-on sessions to teach participants how to develop effective resumes, write cover letters, excel in interviews and practice appropriate workplace behavior. Teens also learn about readiness, covering areas such as hygiene, work attire and transportation.
After a job is secured, TeenWork job coaches shadow each youth to ensure that he or she fully understands workplace responsibilities and are able to master tasks. As the teen becomes more comfortable, the job coach gradually withdraws on-site support, eventually providing only periodic check ins.
“This is one of my favourite programs that I have the honor of working on,” said Hajdu “I fundamentally went into the politic because I believe everyone deserves a fair chance to succeed,” said Hajdu.
Over the years, participants have included teens with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, mental health challenges and physical disabilities.
Participants typically achieve increased financial independence, important life skills, a positive work ethic, optimism about the future and an attitude of “I can work and contribute” improving overall self-esteem and health status.
According to Statistics Canada only 32 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 across the country are employed, compared to 65 per cent in the same age group without disabilities.
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