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Inclusion Alberta desperately seeking companies to employ workers with intellectual disabilities


Inclusion Alberta has a waiting list of close to 200 people with intellectual disabilities looking for work in Calgary. It's in need of employers to register in its Rotary Employment Partnership to find jobs for them.

"We believe that businesses need a partner to create an intentional pathway into an organization where Inclusion Alberta in our case, can work with that employer to help identify potential roles," said Wendy McDonald, the chief operating officer of Alberta Inclusion. "Then we identify potential candidates that we present to the employer who they're going to interview and hire based on their choice."

McDonald came up with the partnership idea in 2001. She's a Rotarian and her 29-year-old son, Kyle has an intellectual disability. She says many people in this demographic want to work.

"The research on hiring from this population is lower absenteeism, better safety records, improved culture, the business case is solid," she said. "So once we have employers that have done this, they actually become our best allies."

Inclusion Alberta is an advocacy organization supporting families and individuals with intellectual disabilities in their desire to be fully included in community life. Since it started, the non-profit has created 841 jobs across the province. Organizers would like to see the partnership expanded to other Canadian provinces and countries round the world.

Incredibly high unemployment rate

McDonald says the unemployment rate for people with intellectual disabilities is incredibly high.

"We have a close to 80 per cent unemployment rate for individuals with intellectual disabilities," she said.  "What we hear is organizations have for example, diversity, equity and inclusion committees, are interested in diversifying their workforce and including people with intellectual disabilities simply don't know how.

"All they need to do is contact us," he adds, "and we would be happy to talk to any employer who would like to understand more and learn how this might be possible in in their organization."


ATCO has been a partner for a number of years and now employs seven people with intellectual disabilities. Colin Jackson, senior vice-president of finance, says it's beneficial to the entire work force.

"They come to work, they're very happy to be here," he said. "They're full of joy in terms of the contributions that they're making and the work that they're doing and so they just bring a different perspective and add so much to the culture, through their perspective.

"They often look at the world a little bit differently," he adds, "look at their work a little bit differently, which brings in creativity and ingenuity into the jobs that they're doing."

Jackson says they're filling positions in ATCO gas, ATCO electric, and the Blue Flame Kitchen and he'd encourage other employers to become partners.

"I think any company would benefit from employing somebody (from this community), it's all about making sure that they have the right person for the right role," he said. "I know of other companies that are working with Inclusion Alberta and they found it very successful as well so I would encourage any company to, to reach out to Inclusion Alberta and to learn more."

Make a difference in somebody's life

McDonald says companies of any size can become a partner and make a difference in someone's life.

"The difference is life changing," she said. "I think for those of us without a disability, we can't imagine not ever having the possibility of employment in our life, not having a reason to get up, not having a paycheck."

Employers wanting to learn more about the partnership can find help at Top Stories

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