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Job shadowing, mentoring can help students with exceptionalities pick the right career

Angela Gismondi
Job shadowing, mentoring can help students with exceptionalities pick the right career

At a recent conference for individuals with disabilities and exceptionalities, youth were told to find their passion, find a mentor, job shadow and make sure their skills align with a career before pursing it.

“Do a day in the life of somebody who does the particular trade you are interested in or follow three people in three different areas to actually see what is involved in the job,” said Dawn Braddock, director of The Job Centre, adding doing research up front is also key. “Sometimes perceptions don’t match reality.

“Find out in advance about a career instead of spending so much time training on it. We have so many clients who have gone through and done training. We get them a job in the field, and not just trades but anything, and they say, ‘this isn’t what I thought it was going to be’ after a lot of money and a lot of time.”

A panel of community organizations specializing in providing support for individuals with disabilities shared tips with future jobseekers at the virtual Persons with Exceptionalities conference organized by Skills Ontario.

“If you are in the audience and you are in high school or you are going into high school you must have somebody to look up to, somebody that is there who works in the job or does something that you can learn from,” said Joel Daze, employer liaison, team lead and adaptive technology specialist with Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care. “Mentoring is a really great opportunity for somebody to learn about a skilled trade, to learn about work environment and even to meet an employer.

“Find a mentor who you can learn good habits and tricks you just can’t learn in the classroom.”

Nick Orfeo, health and safety consultant at the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, said observing also helps when learning a trade.

“I grew up with the older generation in the trades and they don’t like when you ask questions like ‘why are you doing that this way?’ So I learned a lot through observation,” said Orfeo. “Even with the apprenticeship when you get out there, you’re not going to be always doing that task like a journeyperson. You are going to have to start at the bottom like everyone else and work your way up. Stay the course, be patient, it will come.

“Always pass forward the knowledge,” he added. “If you have mentors in your life, when you get to that skill level pass that down to the next generation.”

Having a passion for the job is also an important part of success, all panellists agreed.

“Find something that you love because you are going to be spending eight to 12 hours a day doing that task,” said Orfeo. “There is nothing worse than being stuck in a position where you get older, you have children, you’ve got bills to pay and now it’s difficult to transfer out of that. If you start with a company and find out you like doing a certain thing but you don’t like the repetition you can go out on your own. Once you’ve got the skills, open up your own business, become an entrepreneur.”

In addition to urging jobseekers to find their passion and what interests them, Braddock said it’s crucial to figure out your skillset and match it with a trade, especially since there are so many options to choose from.

“Make sure it’s a good fit,” said Braddock. “If you really want to go into the trades but you are really struggling with math, maybe electrical is not for you, or maybe you need to augment those skills. If you are awesome with fine motor skills and problem solving maybe electrical is for you. If you’re a problem solver who likes social interactions who has people skills millwright can be really good for that.”


Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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