Going to work and paying bills is a privilege many of us take for granted says Shelley Gerber, Provincial Employment Coordinator at CLBC.
“When we ask people with diverse abilities what employment means to them, they may talk about the money, but it’s seldom the first thing they mention,” she explains. “They talk about making new friends, learning new skills, developing confidence, and feeling a sense of purpose. It’s a great feeling, and it spills outside of work into all parts of their lives. Having a job is about more than a paycheque – it opens so many doors.”
Everyone has skills and potential, and Shelley’s goal is to help identify these so individuals served by CLBC can find employment and live fulfilling lives.
After specializing in employment for over six years, Shelley says her own job is incredibly rewarding, too. “Everyday I get to collaborate with community organizations and service providers, as well as individuals and families, all in the name of increasing inclusive employment. I do anything I can to support this.”
Employment helps people and communities thrive
Before joining CLBC, Shelley worked in similar roles helping people with various barriers to employment — such as having diverse abilities, being new to Canada, or re-entering the workforce after prolonged absence — find the right job fit.
“I’ve always been interested in what motivates people. I want to see people achieve their goals and find success. Being able to watch people bloom is a great gift,” she explains.
“Employment transforms people’s lives. Hearing about people’s real-life experiences shows you just what’s possible. It’s exciting and encouraging to see the data we’ve collected showing how many people are employed or want to be employed.”
“I once knew an individual who worked for her local optician. Each week, she would clean all the glasses frames and the display case, which otherwise would never get done as the opticians were far too busy. Her role was important, she knew it, and she walked taller because of it.”
Shelley recalls more success stories. “A young man’s father was a mechanic, and he always wanted to be one, too. He was eventually hired at golf course maintaining and fixing the carts. What a perfect match! Another individual found work as a hydration therapist at a senior care home, ensuring everyone had enough water to drink. If you can carry a jug and make friendly conversation, it’s a great fit. The opportunities are out there and they’re endless.”
Individuals aren’t the only benefactors of inclusive employment, says Shelley. “Employers gain skilled workers, and morale is higher in inclusive workplaces. Communities thrive when people of diverse backgrounds and abilities can contribute.”
Shelley’s tips for families
CLBC funds employment services available across the province. If your family member is interested in learning more about employment, Shelley shares these practical tips:
- Set positive expectations. You can expect that your family member will become employed and that they have skills and abilities that make them employable.
- Help support family members to develop new skills. Start with activities like household chores, mowing lawns, babysitting, or dog walking – the same jobs anyone starts with.
- Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers: CLBC is here to help. First, talk to your facilitator to discuss support options and goals. They can get you connected to service. Our service providers help lots of people get and keep jobs, or even start their own businesses. They also collaborate with employers to create new positions tailored to someone’s personal strengths. It’s all about matching the right person with the right opportunity.
For those struggling with employment, Shelley suggests thinking outside the box and getting creative:
“Keep in mind, some people will fair better in a self employment situation, others in a regular workplace. Also, some jobs are a better fit than others. Doing filing in a professional office is very different from cleaning parts in a car repair shop — which is also unlike working in a fish hatchery, assembling packages, sterilizing dental tools, or baking dog treats. Service providers are skilled in helping job seekers and their families explore all these options.”
“There is work for everyone who wants it. We just have to figure out what it is. With the right job match and the right support, everyone who wants to work, can.”