Career Compass aiming to link employers with those with intellectual disabilities

 

By RTT Staff

A regional employment service for those with intellectual disabilities has been officially launched though it has already has some success stories.

Career Compass, a group that operates under the umbrella of Community Living Essex County (CLEC), was launched last Friday afternoon though it has already been won the 2016 Ontario Disability Employment Network’s (ODEN) “Innovator of the Year” award for “promoting innovation in employment services for people who have a disability.”

An official launch was held for Career Compass last Friday afternoon at the office of Community Living Essex County. From left: Ryan Couture of Access Community Gardens, supported employee Steve Kwasnycia, manager of supports overseeing Career Compass Derek Roy and CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero.

An official launch was held for Career Compass last Friday afternoon at the office of Community Living Essex County. From left: Ryan Couture of Access Community Gardens, supported employee Steve Kwasnycia, manager of supports overseeing Career Compass Derek Roy and CLEC executive director Nancy Wallace-Gero.

Derek Roy, manager of supports overseeing Career Compass, said the idea came from ODEN with CLEC then re-branding its former “Ready to Work” strategy with a more business-minded initiative. After fielding more than 200 suggestions for a new name, it was decided that “Career Compass” would be the brand they would use going forward. The program was one of 37 recipients of the Employment and Modernization grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The name came from the idea of providing career options to job seekers and their families while guiding “forward-thinking” businesses in their inclusive hiring practices. Roy said Career Compass can give guidance to employers who want to hire someone with a disability and said the notion that the employment has to be full-time is unfounded. Many people would like part-time work to ease them into the workplace.

“Business owners are often under the impression that they must hire full-time,” said Roy, “but this really isn’t the case. We’ve found that starting at fewer hours and evaluating from there is ideal.”

Career Compass is also working on a summer student program with Roy stating the Career Compass team is working with local school boards on the matter.

Roy emphasized that Career Compass is connected with CLEC.

“We are one of the many arms of Community Living Essex County,” said Roy, adding that Career Compass has already exceeded many of its targets in terms of getting people hired.

Nancy Wallace-Gero, CLEC executive director, said the agency is very happy with the growth of Career Compass and called Friday’s event “a big celebration” of the employment services group’s early successes.

“Career Compass is a fabulous example of how organizations can modernize its services and meet the needs of the people,” said Wallace-Gero. “We are very proud at Community Living Essex County of Career Compass.”

Wallace-Gero added that Career Compass is “growing very rapidly” and that “it’s growing quicker than anything we are doing right now in terms of real success.”

Steve Kwasnycia, a supported employee at Access Community Gardens, said his employment is “going good for me” and it allows him to support his loved ones. Ryan Couture, nutrition workshop facilitator, credited the Career Compass initiative for its help in allowing his own business to grow.

“The support you guys ave been giving has been crucial,” said Couture.

Couture said he doesn’t want to lose Kwasnycia, calling him the “best partner I’ve ever worked with.” He urged other employers to give Career Compass a shot and said it is not about the disabilities, but rather the abilities of the workers.

Tony DeSantis, manager of community relations and resource development, shows the award Career Compass recently won.

Tony DeSantis, manager of community relations and resource development, shows the award Career Compass recently won.

Tony DeSantis, CLEC’s manager of community relations and resource development, added there are a lot of success stories like that of Kwasnycia.

“We have a lot of people with direct supports that are looking for work,” said DeSantis.

For more information about Career Compass or for employers looking for someone to hire, call 519-776-6483 with Roy’s extension being 211. People can also stop by CLEC’s main office at 372 Talbot St. North in Essex or e-mail Roy at droy@communitylivingessex.org.

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