Congratulations to 2015 Large Business Nominee, King’s University College, Physical Plant Department. The Large Business Award recognizes a company over 50 employees, that develops and applies the concept of ability first and best practices in recruitment, retention, and talent management.
The annual Ability First Coalition Champion Awards celebrate and honour businesses, companies, individuals and organizations that have hired and retained people with disabilities in London, Ontario and surrounding area.
Nominee: King’s University College, Physical Plant Department
Representative: Debbie O’Brien Administrative Assistant to the Director of Physical Plant
Can you tell us a little about your business?
King’s University College, and in particular its Physical Plant department, provides the academic institution daily with numerous staff on site to attend to any repair or key replacement needs that may arise. Students, staff, and faculty are able to complete online work requests for any repair or maintenance issues that may arise while on campus – this includes tasks such as light bulb or smoke alarm battery replacements. In addition, the department is responsible for the maintenance and physical appearance of the campus.
How long have you been in business?
King’s University College celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2014. With that, maintenance in a general sense has always been a key component in ensuring an immaculate and functional place.
How many employees do you have?
Our department as a whole employs more than 30 full- and part-time workers as well as students. Jobs in our department include: administrative, maintenance, grounds, and custodial positions.
Did you have any prior experience working with people with disabilities?
For a job that is physically demanding we have not had considerable experience with working with individuals with disabilities.
Why did you decide to hire someone with a disability?
The opportunity to provide a summer contract to a student with a disability through Lead Employment Services to work two hours per week was a decision that was important to our department. The student, whom was accompanied by a personal support worker at all times and assisted through the initial contact with our department, contract set up, WHMIS, AODA and OHS, and the daily tasks, was able to experience a working-world atmosphere – an experience that all students should have.
How did you go about finding the right person for the job?
The personal support worker for the student was also a King’s graduate who had previously worked in the Physical Plant department.
Can you describe one of the positions filled?
This job consisted of general grounds keeping duties around campus.
How has this employee worked out for you?
We have been so pleased with the student worker and the tasks that they have completed while as an employee.
Were there any preconceptions you had about employing someone with a disability?
Leanne Kuch from LEADS Employment Services did an excellent job leading up to the start of employment allowing for a smooth transition for both King’s and for the student.
How has working with someone with a disability changed any preconceptions you may have had?
The student was a reliable employee who did his job effectively.
What are some of the most common misconceptions you hear other employers talk about when they hear you’ve hired people with disabilities?
Some misconceptions we have heard are that the job is too difficult for a person with a disability, or that too much time will have to be budgeted to a person with disabilities. Our student has proven that both of these are incorrect.
How do you attempt to correct these misconceptions?
Educating people on the abilities rather than disabilities will greatly minimize these misconceptions.
What is your advice for other employers?
Please finish this sentence, “I hire for Ability First because…”
It benefits our organization and it benefits the employee.
What does being nominated for the Champion Awards mean to your business?
It is an honour to be nominated for this award and we are happy that this position was a benefit.