New program teaching people with disabilities important work skills amid labour shortage

New program teaching people with disabilities important work skills amid labour shortage
WatchAn inspiring program in Nanaimo is offering job skills and meaningful employment to people with disabilities, and it's seeing big success. Skye Ryan has more.

Rebecca Barbara never felt like she measured up in the workplace.

That is until she participated in a unique skills program in Nanaimo which taught the 22-year-old with ADHD that she does have a lot to offer.

“I have definitely lost quite a few jobs because I’ve struggled with my ADHD there or the job just not working out for me with my anxiety and stuff like that and this program, it’s been brilliant,” said Rebecca Barbara, a student in the current Nanaimo Foodshare program.

For 19-year-old Dennis Mooring-Mayrhoffer, who lives with depression, the program has also proved life-changing.

“I sat in my bed, and I didn’t do anything for like a year. I just didn’t want to do anything,” said Mooring-Mayrhoffer.

That’s now no longer the case as Mooring-Mayrhoffer works alongside fellow Nanaimo Foodshare students with disabilities inside the kitchen of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in downtown Nanaimo.

“It’s a combination of the support of people and just getting out every day and just trying,” said Mooring-Mayrhoffer.

Each Monday students put on a meal for the public at St. Paul’s church as part of the food share program, which focuses on helping clients — who would otherwise fall through the cracks — with their non-visible disabilities.

“We work primarily with people with disabilities and barriers to employment and we teach them all sorts of food skills whether that’s prep or line cooking and we’re really trying to create space where people have ownership over these activities,” Sean Enns of Nanaimo Foodshare.

Clients also gain outdoor work experience on the Nanaimo Foodshare’s farms and eventually the students obtain enough experience and skills that they can then be helped or placed into jobs.

“I’d highly recommend it for anyone with a disability who is struggling,” said Barbara.

Employers are enticed to hire them because the Nanaimo Foodshare will, at first, subsidize their wages.

The students graduate from the current Nanaimo Foodshare program in two weeks and are ready to be hired amid an ongoing labour shortage where their skills are so badly needed.

“Particularly now that there’s a labour shortage, [we are] realizing that there are so many opportunities to connect the people we work with inclusive jobs,” said Enns.

Rebecca Barbara, 22, is among those who participate in the Nanaimo Foodshare program. (Skye Ryan/CHEK News)

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