Work-Able internship aims to shift work force

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It’s March, and the Work-Able internship is open for applications for the 20182019 year. The twelve-month program gives disabled individuals the opportunity to work in BC’s public service.

Applicants to the program must reside in BC, self-identify as an individual with a disability, provide medical documentation, and give proof of graduation from a recognized post-secondary institution between April 1, 2015 and September 4, 2018. This year there are 18 positions available in BC. Island locations include Nanaimo and Victoria.

The importance of the internship is not lost on Odette Dantzer, the Work-Able program lead.

“The objective of Work-Able is to increase the number of people who identify as having a disability in government,” Dantzer stated in an interview for the BC Public Service. “People with disabilities are either underemployed or unemployed. This program allows them to get that meaningful experience so that they can apply for positions within the public service.”

In 2017, Stats Canada showed BC to have an employed population of 2,153,490, with 151,640 of those individuals being disabled. The age-standardized unemployment rate for the disabled population sits at 13.5 percent, nearly double the non-disabled unemployment rate of 7.5 percent.

The program strives to give the opportunity to see if a job in that area of government works for the candidate. Along with that, the full-term internship offers a biweekly salary for the full-time work that sits above BC’s minimum wage. With the discussion of unpaid internships and their legality becoming a more frequent conversation, and with the disability community bringing attention to policies around the world that allow for below minimum wages for disabled workers, the Work-Able internship appears to be a step in the right direction. Its attitude towards the discussion of employer inquiries when it comes to disability also seems to strive for a more balanced work environment.

“Never ask what their disability is. The question should be what kind of accommodation, or what do you need to be successful in your role,” Dantzer said when asked about the culture that should be built in the work environment when it comes to disability.

Along with giving support and mentorship to the interns that are hired, Work-Able also works with the employers to assess the worksite accessibility, fund the purchasing of accessibility equipment, and mentor the employer on developing accommodations that those with invisible disabilities would require.

Brianna Nelson, a graduate of the Work-Able internship program, knows well the work that the program does and the atmosphere of employers that the program is working on eliminating.

“It’s more you can’t gauge what a person’s ability is right from the onset,” Dantzer said. “So, you’re a little nervous about hiring them because you’re not sure if they can do the work, if they’re capable, and if they’re a worthwhile hire. But I’ve been able to prove that I’m suitable for the job.”

VIU students who are interested in more information about the program and/or guidance in applying can contact Disability Access Services at 250-740-6446, or in the campus office (Bldg. 200, rm 214). The application form can be accessed on the Work-Able section of the BC government website.work