“Job seekers register and employers build a profile and post a job, and the system uses advanced matching technology to match that job to candidates based on experience, education and qualifications,” says Tim Rose, diversity project lead at Magnet. “If LinkedIn and match.com had a baby, it would be Magnet.” The system was developed at Ryerson University.
Today Tim met with about 15 youth with disabilities at Holland Bloorview to help them build their Magnet profiles.
“When an employer first sees a profile, they don’t see any demographic information,” Tim says. “It’s anonymized to eliminate a lot of early-stage hiring bias.”
Tim says that high school students with disabilities don’t have the same opportunities as peers to do part-time work. “Most of the jobs in that age bracket are very physical jobs,” says Tim, who has cerebral palsy. “This is what I faced. I can’t work at Starbucks or McDonald’s, so I had to look very hard to find a student job I could do physically.” Today, the rise of social media is opening up communications jobs that may be perfect for young adults who are savvy with Facebook and Twitter.
But it’s still a tough slog for young people with disabilities, he says.
“There’s a huge amount of stigma around disability and people still assume in 2017 that disability means employees who have to take more sick days and have more challenges. A lot of employers are reluctant, particularly when it comes to taking on youth who are unproven.”
Employers who do want to hire people with disabilities may not know where to find them, Tim says. “We want to change that by providing employers with a pool of highly qualified talent.”
Tim has personal experience with how challenging the job search is when disability is part of the picture. “I graduated from university with a master’s degree in human rights law,” he explains. “I was personable, outgoing and I had a whole resume of volunteer experiences. I’d started a charity right out of university and even with all of that, and with my ability to articulate well, it took me over four years to land a full-time career job.”
Tim said it was the hardest time of his life. “When you apply to something in the range of 90 to 100 jobs and you get 90 to 100 ‘no thank yous,’ it’s hard to take. I started to question what my value was as a person with a disability and I questioned whether I would ever find something.”
During this time Tim did part-time work as a research assistant and started a business called Disability Positive Consulting. “I wanted to demonstrate the asset of disability,” he says. “I firmly believe that my disability has made me a better person. It’s made me a better communicator, more adaptable, more creative. I built a business around that idea and did a lot of speaking gigs to organizations and government about this perspective. “
It was through consulting work with Ryerson that Tim learned about Magnet and landed his current position.
He has lots of advice for other young people with disabilities.
“Number one is don’t give up,” he says. “If I hadn’t had an incredibly supportive family who kept telling me not to give up, I would have, and I wouldn’t have made it. The other thing I firmly believe is that disability is an asset and you need to figure out what you’re good at and passionate about and go out there and network to connect to the types of jobs you want to be in eventually. Also, it’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to get annoyed at the employment situation. You shouldn’t be expected to plaster a smile on your face 24/7 when things aren’t going well.”
Teens aged 16 and up can visit Magnet (hollandbloorview.magnet.today) to start their work profiles. The system is free for job-seekers and employers.