Employment specialist helps people gain more than a job
Deb Bartlett

Part of the job Seema Tripathi does with individuals she supports is to help them understand the less obvious benefits of paid employment.

An employment specialist at posAbilities, Seema says most of the individuals she supports in their job search are motivated by money. She brings them around to thinking about what else comes with a job.

“(Individuals) are starting to understand that it is about independence, and the money allows them do things they want to do.”

She asks each individual a thought-provoking question: when someone asks you what you do, what do you want to say?

She says she tries to help them understand that as citizens in a community there are responsibilities, and to think about how they can give back to their community.

“It takes a lot of going back and forth, but I think they are getting the sense of (self), the sense of pride in working,” says Seema.

Successful job seekers have told Seema that they are not as shy and feel more confident since they started working.

“One person has said ‘I feel a lot of greatness in myself,’” says Seema. “I think (individuals) really understand that they are capable and can do what they want to do.”

PosAbilities’ employment service started in March 2011. Individuals who participate can take part in a three-week employment education module, then start working with their employment specialist in a discovery phase which identifies the individual’s skills, abilities and strengths.

The employment specialist attends interviews too, to explain the process to the employer. The specialist also supports the client at work, while helping the employer understand the individual.

“Our main aim is to fade out from the employment site. When I say fading out, I mean I would like to replace myself with natural support within the employment site,” Seema says.

She says that’s success for her — when the employer says she doesn’t need to be there anymore.

Having a person with a disability in a workplace opens up dialogue, says Seema. Often, an initial response by customers is, “What is this person doing here?” They can be wary of what’s happening.

But, as employment service manager Kalena Kavanaugh notes, “as the individual gets more comfortable and involved in the workplace, people quickly realize and become educated that everyone has valuable skills to offer in the workplace.”

Seema says customers and co-workers are appreciative of Jen, a recent employment service success story who is now working at Starbucks 

If you have comments or feedback on this story, call Deb in the newsroom at 800-294-0051, or e-mail deb(at)axiomnews.ca.