Mentorship has been defined as, the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution. Let me tell you a story about mentoring and the power of partnerships.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual campaign to promote disability inclusion in the workplace. The 2022 theme was “Driving the Future of Work with Disability Inclusion.” We believe mentoring can help drive down barriers to employment that people with disabilities still face.
Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care Inc. (PPRC) has provided bilingual vocational rehabilitation services to people who identify as living with disabilities in Ottawa since 1994. MentorAbility Canada is led by the Canadian Association for Supported Employment (CASE) and PPRC is a local coordinator for this national initiative. MentorAbility provides one-time mentoring opportunities for protégés (job seekers with disabilities) to learn more about careers in the sectors where they want to work. With over 17,000 employees across departments as varied as Public Works and Social and Community Services, our partner, the City of Ottawa, joined PPRC in creating a virtual mentoring event. The City of Ottawa was recognized as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in 2022.
We approached Stacey Wu at the City of Ottawa to partner with us on holding a virtual mentor event to complete five mentor matches. This was a pioneering effort for both parties, and we wanted to test the waters to see if it would succeed. To our delight, we were able to hold twelve one-on-one mentor matches. With such strong interest, the event was a resounding success.
When we asked protégés what career areas they were interested in exploring, the majority (7/12) chose customer service. At the City of Ottawa, customer service is required in most roles and at various levels of responsibility. Mentors also conducted matches in administration, bookkeeping and finance, communications, social services, and water quality and safety testing.
One protégé said, “I feel like I have gained better knowledge to add to my career plans for my future.”
A second protégé opined, “Opportunities lead to learning. Learning leads to opportunities.”
The mentors were also very supportive of the initiative.
One mentor said, “When I am hiring, the ideal candidate is someone with great communication skills or customer services skills.”
Another commented, “Thank you! This was a great opportunity.”
What did protégés learn from the City of Ottawa mentors?
- Highlight education and experience in each application.
- Include volunteer work in your resume.
- Many skills can be taught, – what cannot be taught are soft skills like customer service and communication skills, a positive attitude, and a willingness to learn.
- Basic IT skills are important.
To open the door to employment, protégés also learned to apply for part-time, casual, or summer jobs. Once working within the system, an employee can apply for internal competitions not open to external applicants; A job seeker must create an account if you want to apply to the City of Ottawa jobs.
The City of Ottawa seeks to accommodate people who identify as living with disabilities throughout the recruitment and retention cycle. The choice to disclose or not to disclose a disability is a tough decision for many people and a personal choice. The questions you need to ask yourself are; “What accommodations will I need to perform the essential job duties?” “Will I require an accommodation to remove a barrier to employment?”
We want to thank our clients for stepping forward to participate, and the mentors who wholeheartedly gave their time and expertise. The contributions of City staff – Connor Bell, Program Coordinator, and Christine Malone, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist are greatly appreciated. PPRC extends a special thank you to Stacey Wu, Specialist, Outreach and Engagement, for promoting and supporting our joint efforts. PPRC presented a MentorAbility Award to Ms. Wu and the City of Ottawa in December 2022. We thank them for their support and leadership in being champions of mentorship.
We learned the power of partnership: preparing mentors and protégés leads to productive conversations and successful mentoring. The post-match survey results speak to this success: 87.5% of mentors and 80% of protégés stated that they would be very likely to or would participate in this type of event again. We hope that we can conduct more events like this in the future.
To learn about the City of Ottawa jobs, visit https://jobs-emplois.ottawa.ca/city-jobs
To learn about PPRC’s MentorAbility Program, contact Susan Forster, MentorAbility Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.