Physical accessibility is just the first step in helping people with disabilities find meaningful employment in their community.
What the new WorkBC Centre in Apple Plaza offers, which is equally important, is the human component to tie everything together.
“A great facility is only part of the equation. We have a wonderful group of staff here who try to create a warm and accessible environment for all the clients who come in, because at the end of the day it’s all about serving the clients,” said vice president Paul Simunkovic of Maximus Canada, which has the contract to operate the centre. “We have a great team here who are supportive of not only getting people employed but sticking with them.”
Simunkovic was at the official opening Wednesday along with Shane Simpson, B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and other dignitaries.
The Penticton office is the first in the South Okanagan to receive the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification.
“The Rick Hansen Foundation states that 50 per cent of Canadian adults have or will have experienced temporary or permanent disability or live with somebody who has at some point in their life so I’m proud to announce that we have achieved the highest rating, so the gold standard for this facility for accessibility,” said Simunkovic.
Scott Sherwood, Maximus director of employment services based in Penticton, agreed with the importance of having a strong people component.
“Looking for work can often feel like a lonely type of endeavour where you feel like you’re the only person in that type of circumstance,” he said. “I really want to acknowledge that the team here are fantastic in realizing they’re not alone and we’re really happy to help individuals along that path to employment and even beyond finding that first job.”
WorkBC is the provincial government’s access point to the world of work to help people successfully navigate the B.C. labour market.
In addition to practical information, it also offers a comprehensive database of provincial job listings, career tools and other resources for those seeking work as well as parents, teachers, career and employment counsellors and human resources professionals.
“The challenge is how do we create opportunities, how do we create social inclusion for people who are living with disability and that’s the work we’re doing,” said Simpson. “What WorkBC does is provide a critical strategy for that on the employment piece which is such a big piece of everybody’s lives, to be able to get a job that will support them and their family and be able to fully engage in the community.
“The new WorkBC Centre which is a critical part of our governments initiative to create employment opportunities, particularly for people who have some challenges getting back into the workforce.”
On Wednesday night the minister also hosted an accessibility forum at the Ooknakane Friendship Centre to get input on the new disability legislation currently in the works.
In particular it was people with disabilities he wanted to hear from the most.
“I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to meet with people in the community here, people who are living with disabilities to talk about what that legislation should include,” said Simpson.