Inclusive employment program helping Foothills residents

Foothills: H.I.R.E. bridges gaps between hidden barriers and employers

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014 03:23 pm

H.I.R.E staff Alise Kuipers, Orvella Small and Dean Goll are available to help residents in the Foothills with additional barriers find employment.
H.I.R.E staff Alise Kuipers, Orvella Small and Dean Goll are available to help residents in the Foothills with additional barriers find employment.
Roxanne Blackwell/OWW

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A new service is being offered to help find employment for residents in the Foothills who may have additional barriers.

H.I.R.E. (Having Inclusive Rewarding Employment) is a division of the Special Needs Association for Parents and Siblings, located in High River, that offers free classes to anyone with a “hidden barrier” – which can range from hearing loss to cancer.

“When we initially started marketing this program we said ‘people with disabilities’, and we found that quite a few people would come in and say ‘I don’t have a disability,’” said H.I.R.E’s project coordinator Alise Kuipers. “But then (they explain) and yes they do have a hidden barrier. So we talk about that with individuals.”

The 10 to 20 week program, which is funded through the Opportunities Fund, begins with personal development, such as stress management, and a confidence building course.

“We want to look at the whole person,” Kuipers said. “If you have a confident employee and an employee who knows how to approach you in a positive respectful manner, you're going to want to keep that employee.”

From there, they move on to professional development, which includes typical employment classes like resume development and interview skills.

Kuipers said about 20 per cent of the work force is experiencing hidden disabilities, and it’s their job to bridge the gap between employers and individuals

“We go out and have a conversation with employers and ask what are your needs? What do you need in an employee? And we then bring that back to our people because we want to bring people that have the skills to do the job,” Kuipers said. “They may have a barrier to employment but there's usually an accommodation that can be done, and it’s usually so minor, so we assist employers in that job match.”

H.I.R.E. job coach Dean Goll said participants leave the program with a strong skill set and are prepared to find, secure and maintain work for a lifetime.

“The reason why we require everyone to take all the steps is they are required to put together a correct resume, cover letter, they have to land their own interview and go through the process,” he said. “At the end of the day they have got that job on their own, with help and coaching from us.”

Kuipers said they’ve already helped a number of individuals find a range of work in the area, one as an esthetician, another as a vehicle warranty administrator, and another one at a feedlot. Kuipers said they have a range of skill sets from entry level to university grads utilizing the program.

Kuipers also encourages employers to use the H.I.R.E program as well to create a diverse workforce.

“Employers can post jobs with us, we will only send people that are qualified,” she said. “It looks good on a business to be equal opportunity. People with barriers, they shop and they live in your communities and we want employers to be a part of that.”

For more information on the H.I.R.E. Program contact or 403-652-4472.


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