Amy Mitschele (pictured) knows how tough a job search can be.
But unlike the many unemployed in Toronto, her efforts were even harder because she became visually impaired in 2004 as a result of complications from diabetes.
She did contract work for a while, but then struggled for a year to find work.
“It was disheartening,” said Mitschele, 37. “You feel like you’re being kicked while you’re down.”
Then one day she stumbled across a pre-employment program for people with disabilities where she wound up in a six-week course for the BMO Financial Group.
During that rigorous program, run in conjunction with JVS Toronto, potential employees are taught everything from practical computer skills to bank acronyms to how to deal with difficult customers — with role-playing workshops.
“The program gave me a gigantic boost of confidence,” Mitschele said, emphasizing she wasn’t hired because she is visually impaired. “I’m here because I’m qualified. I’m an employee who happens to be visually impaired.”
And now early every weekday morning, she travels from her Danforth-area home with her guide dog Lagoon on the subway to her office at the Eaton Centre, where she does research and runs reports, often before the financial markets open.
“It’s a great feeling to get up in the morning and feel like you’re needed,” she said. “I think the program helps them to see you for who you are, they don’t see you as a person with a disability.”
Carol Hacker, director of disability services at JVS, says the retention rate among graduates of pre-screening program is higher than without the program.
“It’s in the employer’s interest to know who they are getting. Standards are set. If they don’t graduate, they don’t get hired,” Hacker said. “It makes the first number of months at work easier.”
Demand for the program is high, often more than 500 applications for only 15 spots, said Nicole Jacksic, BMO’s senior adviser, diversity and workplace equality.
She noted the program, which has an 80 per cent success rate, teaches potential employees what to expect in the workplace, and at the same time, managers are involved in the selection process.
That means they tend to be more committed to ensuring the employee succeeds, Jacksic added.
At 49, Sanjay Sethi has held many jobs from human resources to variety store owner, but when his sign franchise business failed a year ago, he was struggling to find work.
For months, he sent out resumes and not a single response. Finally, Sethi, who had his right arm amputated in 1982 as a result of an industrial accident, came across the BMO program.
And now he’s been working as a teller at a Brampton branch since the summer.
“I’m lucky. If I didn’t find the program, I would probably still be looking for work.”
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Toronto Star:
Posted by BA Haller at 1:10 PM