In British Columbia Canada, the unemployment rate for individuals living with the label of developmental disability is over 83% yet employers rate this demographic as 93% more hardworking. Transitioning youth are passionate about employment! In the Simon Fraser Region of BC, employment is the most requested service through Community Living BC (Government of BC). Over 1800 individuals are eligible for this service. In the last two years, this region has been responsible for supporting more than 130 new jobs per year. This is a result of collaboration between: individuals, families, service providers, teachers (high school and college), ministry officials, healthcare professionals, and social workers. And it can only get better!

This research is inspiring simply because it’s working. Arguably, this population has transformed the most in the past 30 years. From deinstitutionalization in the 1980’s to classroom integration, and independent living- these are citizens passionate about having a job! Transitioning youth are asking for employment, supported to receive employment, and are employed! Like all youth, questions about life after high school, friendships, independence, and interests are paramount.


In a recent PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope) Group process, youth told us that additional support transitioning from high school would be helpful- even just that one person they can connect with like a life coach, employment specialist or social worker. All youth acknowledged the supportive role of their families. All youth would like to have more opportunity for a variety of work experiences (not just in food service and retail). For those youth who attended college, it was a very positive experience. For those who were working (an average of 8 hours per week), they want to work more. All youth feel that they live in poverty and that a job is their way out of poverty. Becuase youth are unemployed or underemployed, their long term goals of independence are being upset.


This information was taken forward to frontline workers and managers from five different ministries. These ministries included: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Ministry of Health and Community Living BC. Frontline workers highlighted that starting transition planning as young as possible is best, that the Simon Fraser Region’s employment service provision is doing well and that further employment service delivery training is needed by frontline workers (ie customized employment training). Families need to be supported to have employment first action. Employment first is the philosophy that employment is paramount and that sports, recreation, volunteering and other activities are built around the importance of employment. Transitioning youth are powerful in mentoring each other. Stories inclusive of all levels of disability related need are required. The collaboration needs to be broadened to include mental health, justice, and addiction services.


This action research raises questions such as:

  1. How can youth be better supported throughout the transition process and specifically in the employment first conversation?
  2. How can all stakeholders be best trained in transitioning processes and employment values?
  3. How can this model be shared so others experience employment success?
  4. How could collaboration be better coordinated provincially?


Check out some of our employment stories at:


PATH Graphic Facilitation Credit June 24th, 2014: Aaron Johannes

Print Friendly, PDF & Email