The electricity sector employs over 108,000 people and like other industrial sectors we face the immediate challenge of an imminent departure of those skilled workers as baby boomers retire. In 2016 the oldest boomers are in their early to mid-60s and the youngest have hit 50. By 2016, all but the youngest boomers will have reached the average age of retirement for our sector, 58, and will likely have the 30 years of experience needed to qualify for full pension. A high proportion will take it. While the economic recession has delayed some exiting from the Canadian workforce, the reality is that the babyboomer cohort will soon retire. These conditions create severe labour market challenges.
On the positive side this scenario presents an exceptional opportunity to diversify the workforce, and EHRC research and consultations to date indicate that there is a recognition, interest and willingness on employers’ parts to maximize the labour market relevance of being more inclusive of talent from under-represented and minority groups. For people with disabilities seeking employment and long-term careers, it provides opportunities in a wide array of occupations, often in careers that one does not readily associate with the electricity sector.
EHRC’s newest project with the Government of Ontario under the EnAbling Change Program will see the organization focus on improving equity of access and supports for people with disabilities who work or wish to work in the Canadian electricity industry.
The EnAbling Change Program is an initiative of the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (MEDEI). Through the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), the program provides financial support and expertise to incorporated non-profit organizations, such as industry umbrella organizations and professional associations that have wide reach to help organizations comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and its five Accessibility standards. In 2016-17 the EnAbling Change Program priorities are:
- Promoting and distributing resources to help organizations with the 2017 reporting deadline
- Helping small and medium sized business understand and comply with the Employment Standard
- Promoting the business case for accessibility and a culture shift towards greater inclusion
In particular, through the various tools, education and communication outreach employed, the project seeks to create both national and provincial awareness as follows:
- create awareness that hiring people with disabilities is not only socially responsible, but good for business – increasing employee morale, productivity, innovation, profitability, organizational excellence, and the ability to retain talent;
- provide employers with the education and training needed to overcome cultural barriers;
- dispel myths and reduce risk-averse perspectives (e.g. high cost and the complex nature of disability-related accommodations, higher than usual sick time, safety issues, and low work output);
- put theory into practice and support employers as they move to ensure their workplace environments welcome, value and respects those with disabilities. This will include developing various tools and resources as part of a EHRC Resource Kit for Hiring and Retaining People with Disabilities in the Electricity Sector (Coming Soon!)
- raise awareness of and leverage available resources and partnership to support employer-driven initiatives to recruit and retain employees with disabilities (e.g. employment service providers – March of Dimes, Specialisterne, JOIN, LiveWorkPlay to present suitable candidates for electricity industry hiring needs).
- provide employees and employers in Ontario with education and training on legislative requirements of the AODA, its Accessibility Standards and compliance reporting and deadlines.
For this project, EHRC has brought together an Advisory Committee of industry partners who will share their expertise, guide project activities to ensure consistency with industry needs, and assist with stakeholder engagement and communications. Industry partners on this initiative include: Horizon Utilities, Powerstream, Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Community College, Burlington Hydro; Newfoundland Power; the Society of Energy Professionals, LiveWorkPlay, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
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Tools, Resources and promising practices as part of the EHRC Resource Kit for Hiring and Retaining People with Disabilities in the Electricity Sector!