Submitted by Robert More
We keep hearing each year how less and less people are going into the trades. Some of the explanations include the additional regulations and certifications the Ministry of Labour has established. The biggest challenge with it is that current employees are not grandfathered on these regulations, so for them to go back to school to get the certifications can be a hardship. In our rural areas, it is worse because there are no local providers for these certifications, so our trades people have to figure out ways to get to the cities for days on end and take these classes on location. Other explanations include the parameters put on apprenticeships which are almost impossible to meet for small employers. Again, in our rural areas, we generally don’t have large employers able to do multiple apprentices.
In the Rural FASD Support Network, we recognize there is a third explanation. Within our group, we have several employable individuals who would love to work in the trades. However, because they require a school and an employer who would need to provide supports over and above their current infrastructure, they are missing out on these opportunities.
That is why the Rural FASD Support Network is doing something about it. Within our group, we have two concurrent meetings every month. The caregivers and adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) get together and share some of their challenges and collaborate to figure out solutions. We make sure we are inviting our service providers and resident experts to these meetings to help with implementation of those solutions. The children that come aren’t just sitting around playing video games and watching movies. We also have professional childcare givers who are doing activities with them that focus on employable skills. The children will work together doing a science lab of some type. They are learning how to build and program robots. They are developing skill in computer programming. They are receiving lessons about graphic design and music. They are learning how to advocate for themselves and speak in public. They work together, provide ideas for future programming, and discovering what type of environments they need to be successful. They are being exposed to agricultural occupations, culinary arts and wilderness camps. And each one of our children are finding their area of strength.
The reason we are being intentional in this particular area is because we recognize every one of these children have strengths that can absolutely be of benefit to our communities. Sometimes we think of these strengths as being challenges. One of our children has discovered repetitive circular motions with his arms is a great way to stay calm for him. In school, this can be difficult because he tends to hit kids located near him and will do it for hours. However, at home, his skill at applying drywall mud and painting is incredibly good. And he doesn’t stop or lose focus on it. Another child has discovered people, clothing other than PJ’s, lights and noise can be very difficult to overcome in terms of stimuli. To escape this, he will focus for hours on his tablet and video games. At our group, though, we have discovered if you put him in his bedroom in his PJ’s, keep the lights down and leave him alone, he is able to focus for hours finding the bugs in computer programming code and is now writing code in multiple languages. I recently had the opportunity to tour the Shopify Headquarters and meet with some of their executives. Their entire organization is setup for individuals like this boy and see him as having a bright future in their field.
In the employment counselor field, you will occasionally hear that the unemployment rate will never drop below 3-4% because that is the population rate who is basically unemployable no matter what you do. At the Rural FASD Support Network, we take exception to that statement. We have frequently heard how our children are going to be unemployable because of their disability. We don’t believe that. We recognize that they likely are not going to be lawyers, doctors and teachers. We also recognize they don’t have as many options as the general public does. But they always have at least one option. By focusing on that option early, giving opportunity to learn and finding community partners willing to give them a chance, they can absolutely have as bright a future as anyone else.