Employment counsellor Melanie White believes that no matter what somebody’s physical or mental capabilities are, everyone should be given a chance to live productive lives and contribute to society. That is why she is working hard to promote employment disability month and show people why it is so important.
“Every individual, whether they have a disability or not, should be provided with the opportunity the same as everybody else to have meaningful employment,” she said. “…They should be able to pay taxes, they should be included just like everybody else.”
White is a counsellor for Thompson Community Services (TCS). Along with the other counsellors at TCS, White works to secure customized employment for adults with disabilities. The counsellors call the process job carving, and it involves finding out what a client’s strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes are, then to secure the “dream job” for them that will fit those criteria. There are currently 15 adults in Prince Rupert who have received job placements through TCS.
White receives clients who have been recommended by Community Living British Columbia, she helps find a placement for them, writes a proposal for the employers and advocates that the client is paid more than minimum wage.
“We have a discovery process where we find out what their interest is, where they like to be, where they don’t like to be,” said White. “We help them identify where they feel the most comfortable and where they want to be placed because our goal is long-term and enjoyable employment.”
When a client has been placed, TCS goes through a work site and makes an assessment to make sure the individual has support. They can assist in helping employees with any extra training they need, such as a forklift ticket, or if they need a uniform.
“If we find a placement we do our best to get them the training they need,” White said.
The work does not stop with the employee. TCS works with the client’s supervisors or coworkers to make any adjustments easier. For example, White said TCS produces videos to help the employers understand the individuals better.
Jamie Alexander is an example of an individual who has successfully integrated into the workplace and secured long-term employment as a result of the program. Alexander has collated and delivered newspapers for the Northern View for seven years. When he first arrived at the Northern View, White was his job coach, consistently checking in with him to make sure the new job was going okay.
“She asks me how I’m doing, and I tell her I’m doing good at my job,” Alexander said.
Alexander currently comes into the office twice a week, and says he enjoys meeting new people on his routes.
White said the goal of the TCS program is to empower clients like Alexander so they can perform their jobs independently. As the individual becomes more independent, TCS transitions of “fades out” of the service, allowing the individuals to be self-sufficient.
“I think it’s really important because there’s a lot of employers who are involved but they don’t realize the capacity of work that people are available to do,” she said.