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Manitoba's Approach to Advancing The Employability and Employment of Persons With Disabilities

Editor's Note: Glen Coutts is Policy Analyst, Employment and Income Support Services, Services for Persons with Disabilities, Manitoba Family Services and Housing.

On September 10, 2004, while addressing delegates at the Disabled Peoples' International World Summit held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Christine Melnick, Manitoba's Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities and Minister of Family Services and Housing, announced the launch of a new employment strategy to enhance the employment of persons with disabilities.

The employment strategy is built around a partnership with community, employment programs, the business sector and government, and focuses on people with disabilities receiving employment and income assistance. It includes the creation of an employability support unit.

"What is exciting about this strategy is the shift to a proactive partnership approach to employing more people with disabilities," said Melnick. "This new approach builds on our commitment to assist people to achieve full participation in society and more self-sufficiency by taking advantage of opportunities to join the workforce. I am pleased we will be partnering with the community at large on this new strategy, including a cross-section of local groups and employers."

Current Employment Initiatives and Supports

  1. Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPD)
  • Manitoba is involved in an Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities (EAPD) evaluation. The final EAPD Evaluation Report is anticipated by late 2006.

  • The March 2004 federal budget included an additional $30 million nationally for the LMAPD (the successor to the EAPD), beginning in 2004/05. This amounts to an additional $1.051 Million for Manitoba and represents an increase in the federal contribution level from $7.914 Million to $8.965 Million per year. Since Manitoba Family Services and Housing (FSH) already provides funding for programs and services in excess of what it receives cost-matched dollars for, the additional federal money will help to offset existing expenditures.

  1. Employment Supports for Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) Participants
  • The current range of employment supports for persons with disabilities include: earnings exemptions; work clothing; work transportation; portion of child care costs; monthly telephone costs if required for employment; and, a miscellaneous training allowance. Extended health benefits may be provided for participants whose cash benefits stop because of employment.
  1. Multi-Sector Strategy
  • A Multi-Sector Strategy Forum was arranged by Family Services and Housing in conjunction with the Manitoba Business Leadership Network, Reaching E-Quality Employment Services, Career Connections Inc., the Department of Advanced Education and Training and Social Development Canada.

  • The one-day Forum, held on March 22, 2005, brought together the business community, community organizations, persons with disabilities and government representatives to collaborate on strategies to promote the employment abilities of persons with disabilities, and to develop recommendations for employment strategies to benefit both employers and persons with disabilities.

  • A report on the Forum was shared with all participants. Subsequently, a Multi-Sector Committee has been struck with representatives from business, disability organizations, consumers, Family Services and Housing, Advanced Education and Training and the federal government to follow up the activities of the Forum.

  1. Employability Support Unit to Assist EIA Participants with Disabilities
  • A new Employability Support Unit has been created to assist EIA participants with disabilities to move into employment. Staff in the Unit identify and assist interested people to find jobs, primarily through referral to community employment programs, as well as through direct support.

New Employment Projects/Initiatives

The Assistant Deputy Minister's Committee on Disability Issues has a Subcommittee on Advancing the Employability and Employment of Persons with Disabilities. The Subcommittee consulted with community groups and reviewed reports and recommendations on the topic, including the Multi-Sector Forum report. Minister Melnick has since approved four strategic areas for the Subcommittee to develop options for consideration and four Working Groups are in the process of commencing this work.

The four approved strategic areas are:

  1. Leadership by the Province--Strategy to ensure that 7% of Provincial Government workforce is comprised of persons with disabilities within the next five years.

  2. Accommodations (disability supports)--Improve availability and portability of disability supports so that they move with the individual through transitions (e.g., from one job to another, from educational institution to employment).

  3. Business--Encourage business to hire and retain persons with disabilities; for example, by facilitating workforce accommodations; providing training/mentorship; providing a clearing house for employment; and promoting awareness of the abilities of persons with disabilities and the supports available.

  4. First Nations--Press Health Canada through its Aboriginal Health Blueprint process to address service gaps for First Nations persons with disabilities on reserves, which will assist them to move to employment.

Manitoba Business Leadership Network

Apart from government, but closely linked in terms of goals and strategy, is the Manitoba Business Leadership Network (MBLN). Incorporated in October 1999, the MBLN was modelled after successful Business Leadership Networks in the United States and adapted to accommodate Manitoba's business community.

The MBLN's mission is: "To engage the business community in promoting the benefits of hiring qualified individuals with disabilities and provide Manitoban's with disabilities the opportunity to acquire meaningful employment."

In response to the business community indicating their primary challenge was identifying qualified persons with disabilities to hire when filling vacant positions, the MBLN developed an Employment Fair to provide businesses with the opportunity to meet qualified job seekers with disabilities.

In its first year, 2002, the Employment Fair attracted 15 companies, about 350 job seekers with disabilities and ten permanent positions were obtained. In year two, there were 19 companies participating and approximately 500 persons with disabilities in attendance, which resulted in 15 permanent positions. Its third year saw the number of participating companies rise to 26, while over 450 people attended and at least 20 positions were filled as a result.

At a kick-off to the 2005 Employment Fair, the MBLN hosted a breakfast ceremony, where they presented Recognition Awards for Innovation in Employment Equity for Persons with Disabilities. Three awards were presented: Employer of the Year Small/Medium Business, Employer of the Year Large Business, and the President's Award to an Individual or Business for exemplary efforts in breaking down employment barriers.