With a deep breath, Khandro Turnquist squeezed through a loud, crowded office space Thursday, that in the past might have triggered them and sent the 44-year-old running for the door.
These days, with their service dog Finn nibbling at their arm to calm anxiety from C-PTSD, and new job skills, they were confident and smiled.
“He lets me know that I’m not alone, because when I’m alone I’m the worst version of myself,” said Khandro Turnquist, a recipient of disability job program training in Nanaimo.
Turnquist posed with federal and provincial ministers and told their story Thursday in Nanaimo, hoping to inspire others with disabilities to enter the workforce with the newly funded job supports that are available.
“Disability has long been culturally shameful, and this is engraved into many of our hearts. We wish to be employed,” Tunquist told a press conference.
“You’re worth it, you are not a hindrance. Companies have money to give you to bring you up to speed,” said Turnquist.
According to Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, over 850,000 Canadians with disabilities are currently unemployed or underemployed.
Ethos Career Management is a unique Nanaimo employment agency that’s hoping to change that.
“It’s who we are. We kind of jokingly say we’re a group of underdogs and that’s who we support because that’s who our clients are,” said Deborah Bromley, the company’s CEO — and also someone who themselves has a disability.
Qualtrough announced $16 million in federal funding to go to job programs including those at Ethos. 350 people will benefit from the funding in Nanaimo alone.
“We won’t reach our full economic potential unless we remove all of the barriers and obstacles faced by this untapped talent pool and in a time of labour shortage, it couldn’t be more necessary or relevant,” said Qualtrough.
Currently, 6.2 million Canadians identify as having a disability. Turnquist is now enjoying a career helping youth gain employment skills in Duncan, and credits the disability employment program for that success.