One group is students with developmental disabilities. One group is students training to work in community services. Both groups need experience working. Neither of them could have better teachers than the other.
With help from a grant, provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s Community and College Social Innovation Fund, two groups of students will share work placements, designed to deal with the difficulties of integrating youth and adults with developmental handicaps into the community and the labour market.
All the students attend Ottawa’s college La Cité. The students with developmental disabilities are part of the college’s Intégration communautaire par l’éducation coopérative (ICEC) program, which lasts two years and helps students prepare for work and life in the community.
Along with them will be students training for careers working with the developmentally disabled, in a program called Interventions auprès des personnes ayant un handicap (IPH). It will be their final work placement before graduation.
“The inclusion we are seeking goes well beyond the workplace and extends to full social and environmental inclusion,” said Claudette Migneault, director of community participation services at Association pour l’intégration sociale d’Ottawa (AISO). “When we talk about social inclusion of people with development disabilities we mean inclusion in all aspects of their lives.”
AISO is a francophone agency serving developmentally disabled people and their families and also La Cité’s community partner on this social innovation project. AISO has offered employment services for many years, such as internships, employer and employee coaching and workshops on health and safety or food handling to make their clients more employable.
The belief is social integration begins with employment and La Cité’s ICEC program shares that value, working with people with disabilities to consolidate the skills they have, help them acquire new ones for specific work environments, and also to learn habits that will improve their social inclusion in the workplace and beyond it. They can also take college courses, adapted to their abilities, and earn a completion certificate.
For the project, three students from the IPH program (who study to become support workers for the developmentally disabled) will be matched by La Cité with five ICEC students each. For their final internship, the IPH students will be supervised by a senior advisor from AISO and will accompany the students with disabilities, helping them to integrate and settle in as they demonstrate to potential employers they have the skills to do the job, or the ability to learn them.
The first phase of this collaborative research project will be a literature review, gathering best practices for internships and training for professionals working with people with developmental disabilities. The goal is to guide the development of the common internship project between the two programs from La Cité. During the internship phase, the IPH students will be asked to record their experiences for analysis and evaluation. The final phase will an evaluation of the internship. Lessons learned will be applied to the common internship between the two programs and will be shared with other organizations in the community.