Ready, Willing & Able has received an Innovative Policy on Employment, Work and Vocational Education and Training Award from the Zero Project, an inclusion-focused global initiative dedicated to fostering innovative solutions to challenges faced by people who have a disability around the world. The award ceremony took place at the United Nations’ office in Vienna, Austria on February 23rd.
“We are thrilled to be honoured by the Zero Project,” said Ready, Willing & Able National Director Don Gallant. “RWA represents Canada’s first truly employer-focused, demand-driven employment model. The great success we have achieved to date is a direct reflection of the commitment by the Government of Canada to supporting innovative policy exploration, the strength of our partnerships across the country, and the dedication and efforts of the RWA delivery team.”
“It’s easy for me or whoever to design the project and put it to paper, but it takes real people doing it well at local levels to make this a successful project. [Staff members have] been able to engage employers in a coherent and passionate way that gets them to understand the value of hiring people with intellectual disabilities or ASD.”
Ready, Willing & Able was honoured for its work in securing approximately 1,800 employment opportunities, including partnerships with large companies like Costco and Value Village, to secure 1,200 jobs and educational opportunities for people who have an intellectual disability. Gallant and Employment and Social Development Canada Executive Director Monika Bertrand were on-hand to accept the award.
“The project’s been able to deliver on its targets,” said Gallant, “and the outcomes that we were projecting, so it’s very humbling, if you will, to see that it’s been acknowledged right across the whole world.”
Barrington Hector, a Labour Market Facilitator for Ready, Willing & Able in Ontario was optimistic when he said, “Having the work we have collectively done be recognized in such a way is great. It’s particularly impressive as we are still in the pilot phase of this project and are continuing to grow and evolve.”
The award couldn’t have come at a better time, as December will mark the end of the three-year pilot project that Ready, Willing & Able has been championing, and accolades like last week’s award will likely be beneficial in discussions about keeping the project moving forward.
“Getting this kind of prestigious award hopefully sets us up to have a very positive conversation with the Federal government going forward,” Gallant mused. He hopes to gain the resources to expand the initiative from its current 20 communities to 40 or more.
Hector hopes to continue to grow the initiative here in Ontario. According to him, “As we look to the future of Ready, Willing & Able here in the province, we want to ensure we are building capacity within local associations right across Ontario. This includes sharing best-practices, looking at greater opportunity outside of the Greater Toronto Area and fostering even more regional employment partnerships.”
56 Innovative Practices and 11 Innovative Policy awards were given out at last week’s event, which was attended by over 500 experts from more than 70 countries.
To find out more about the Zero Project, visit www.zeroproject.org.
Daniel Share-Strom, Community Living Ontario