Written by Jillian Bradley

A jobseeker’s ambition is only one piece of the puzzle. The other is an employer willing to take a chance

Despite living with complete vision loss, Anu Pala didn’t allow that to define her. Rather she used it as fuel to empower others. She shared that an essential piece of this story was having an employer see her potential and offer her a chance. That chance changed her career path. As a diversity, inclusion, and vocational consultant, Pala now transforms businesses and motivates hundreds of people to reach personal and professional goals.

I heard Pala share her inspirational story at the Inclusive Employer Awards, held November 16 at the Surrey Arts Centre. Seven organizations – Community Living British Columbia, UNITI WISE Employment Solutions, Rotary Club of Surrey, Options Community Services, Milieu, Mosaic, and Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society –  joined forces to recognize employers who are fostering inclusivity within their businesses.

Pala’s story is significant because it shows that a jobseeker’s motivation is only one part of the puzzle. The other piece is an employer willing to take a chance.

A big part of my role with the Employer Outreach Project is finding out what influences the decision to offer a job to someone with a disability – or not. To that end, we hosted an Employer Forum before the award’s ceremony, providing a safe space for employers to share their experiences and thoughts on inclusive hiring.

We wanted to uncover what was working well, of course. But we really wanted to hear about the worries and obstacles businesses were facing. This information is important for us to understand why employment for people with disabilities has not grown much over the years.

Sometimes the answer was that the fit hasn’t been right; Someone was placed in a position that wasn’t a good match. This is a relatively simple problem to address. A more challenging barrier is fear; Employers aren’t sure what to expect from people with disabilities, and so they’re afraid to take a chance.

Clearly, we have a long way to go before inclusive hiring practices are familiar to everyone. But this initiative will play a vital role in increasing knowledge and challenging misconceptions about inclusive hiring. The November forum was only the second of many. Over the next year, the Employer Outreach Project will be bringing similar forums to communities across BC.

As the journey continues, the Employer Outreach Project invites you to learn more or get involved by visiting their inclusive hiring webpage: https://inclusionbc.org/inclusive-hiring/  Together, let’s pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse workforce.


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