By MICHAEL PRINCE – Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney has challenged Canadian employers to do better in training and working conditions, especially for those under-represented in the labour force.
The challenge must be put not only to employers. More strategically, the policy challenge faces the provinces, school systems, post-secondary institutions, and the federal government.
For the past quarter century, social surveys have consistently confirmed that people with disabilities remain one of the most undereducated and unemployed groups in Canada. We know that the average educational attainment for people with disabilities is lower than for people without disabilities: people with disabilities are much more likely to have high school education or less.
Looking at employment, we find that a higher proportion of youth with disabilities, who are not full time students, are more likely to hold multiple jobs in a year; they are more likely to have jobs unrelated to their education; they are more likely to not be working or attending school; and, they are more likely to live in low income households.
This means that young people with disabilities are more likely than their counterparts to be in non-standard jobs; to be underemployed; to be without employment; and to be in poverty.
Public programs for Canadians with disabilities are a disjointed patchwork of practices with uneven accessibility. Nowhere is this more evident than in programs for youth with disabilities. Transition planning and employment preparation for youth with disabilities are insufficient and ineffective in many parts of Canada.