Tapping Into an Often Untapped Talent Pool

Nov 6, 2019
5.5 mins | 1,196 words
By: Julie Caldwell

Headshot of Julie Caldwell

Address the Talent Shortage 

The Ottawa Board of Trade notes that 63% of business owners here in the Ottawa area are having a challenge recruiting and retaining skilled talent.  This means that your company should be thinking “out of the box” and re-thinking traditional recruitment practices, to ensure that you are tapping into what are often considered untapped pools of talent

One of these untapped pools of talent includes people, specifically post-secondary students, with disabilities.

In the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, it is noted that 1 in 5 Canadians, aged 15 or older, have one or more visible and/or non-visible disabilities.

Many people associate disabilities with those that they can see – the use of a wheelchair, the use of a scooter or other types of evident physical supports. But the reality is, there are many more people – many probably in your office right now – that require accommodations that aren’t physically recognizable. Non-visible disabilities are often identified as mental health, memory, learning, developmental or even pain related.  Some examples include Fibromyalgia, Dyslexia, Crohn’s Disease, Arthritis, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

The David C. Onley Initiative for Employment and Enterprise Development, a two-year collaborative project between Carleton University, Algonquin College, University of Ottawa and La Cite, has been looking at ways to reduce the employment gap for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities. Of the over 10, 000 students who have self-identified as requiring academic accommodation due to a disability, approximately 92% have what is considered a non-visible disability.

If we consider the Statistics Canada fact noted earlier, this means that 1 in 5 of our graduating students from Ottawa’s colleges and universities are likely to have a visible, or even more likely, a non-visible disability, or both.

Build an Inclusive Post-Secondary Recruitment Strategy

An inclusive and well-defined post-secondary recruitment strategy can contribute to your company’s growth, help expand your brand, and even benefit your bottom line. Post-secondary environments allow students to learn through relevant curriculum that has been designed to address business needs and respond to the market, to learn from real-world scenarios as shared by instructors and to deliver on current trends based on faculty research.

Increasingly, most post-secondary institutions have intentionally integrated real-life case-based learning and a variety of work-integrated learning opportunities such as co-ops, internships and apprenticeships, to name a few. By identifying a series of what we call employment pathways that allow you access to students and graduates, your company can purposely be a part of cultivating skills and experiences that you look for in your employees, therefore building your future inclusive workforce.

Take Steps to Create an Inclusive Campus Recruitment Strategy

  1. Get clear on your needs. Not just the job needs but also your people needs. Have a conversation with your team regarding the work and what must get done. Identify skills, previous experiences and academic knowledge that’s required to achieve success in the role.
  2. Invest in internal best practices and building a culture of belonging. Consult with your Diversity and Inclusion team, introduce a Diversity and Inclusion team, or work with an expert with the professional expertise necessary to ensure that your work environment is inclusive and supports the needs of all employees.
  3. Write a clear position description. Be sure that the description is written to address the skills and responsibilities required for the specific job and that it doesn’t include things that could automatically exclude someone. An example of this is indicating a need for physical work like lifting boxes, which may not be essential for the role.  This type of description could limit your talent pool. In addition, be explicitly clear and add a brief addition to the company description that highlights the physical work environment.  Knowing if the office is an open concept or high traffic, for example, can help someone identify if it’s the type of space that they can best perform in.

Check out this article from Hire for Talent for more tips on writing an inclusive job posting.

  1. Discuss how you can best support and mentor a student or graduate in the role. Before you hire a student or new graduate, take some time to identify a champion(s) that is available to support new employees.  Mentors can help new recruits better understand how to navigate the company, introduce them to key players, and be a point of reference if help or direction is needed as they learn on the job.  Take a proactive role in identifying people at different levels within the organization.
  2. Have an open dialogue with the individual you hire. Be prepared and have conversations with the new hire you’ve welcomed to your team about the needs or accommodations they require. Ask about their learning style and if there are tools and resources that the company can provide. Identify opportunities for further training or access to tools or technology that could be of value if or when it’s needed. Always be respectful and only share information with those who need it and as it’s required. Don’t make assumptions about individual needs. All of this will support their success on the job.  In regard to working with schools:
  3. Identify 3 to 5 post-secondary institutions. Do your research. Identify colleges or universities that have a strong reputation for specific academic programs that are unique to your company’s needs. Contact campus career offices to inquire about opportunities for your company to post jobs for students, participate in campus networking events, job/career fairs, mock interviews, etc.  Find out how these offices engage with students with disabilities or how you might be able to tap into active student organizations that are in line with your company’s business stream(s).
  4. Identify employment pathways that meet your business needs. Work with campus career offices to identify which employment pathway may be the right fit for your company. In addition to part-time and summer jobs or co-op positions, there are many other pathways that could benefit your company.  Check out CEWIL to learn more about work-integrated learning opportunities such as service-learning, field placements and internships, to name a few.

Accessibility for All

To learn more about how you are #AbleTo tap into this untapped pool of talent in the Ottawa area and to make your workplace inclusive, contact the Career Services office at your desired campus, check out ableto.ca or contact Julie Caldwell at [email protected]. Follow us on Twitter @AbleToOttawa.

You can also access more information by linking to the PDFs linked below. They are packed with insight, quality content, and learnings you can apply in your workplace. And, they’re easy to share! Check out:

About the author: Julie Caldwell, Assistant Director, Program Operations, David C. Onley Initiative

Julie has worked at Carleton University for over 24 years. Prior to assuming her leadership role at the David C. Onley Initiative, she managed professional graduate programs at the Sprott School of Business; held the position of university secretary; served as chief administrative and accreditation officer as well as laid the groundwork for the Business Career Management Centre at the Sprott School of Business; and occupied a variety of roles in the central career centre on campus. She also is a contract instructor. Julie earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/julie-caldwell-110b412/






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