The Sinneave Family Foundation in Alberta, Canada, is committed to seeing autistic adults live, learn, work, and thrive in their communities and to realize their desired futures.
EmploymentWorks and EmploymentWorks Virtual:
A path to meaningful employment for adults with development challenges can be difficult, which is why Canada’s Sinneave Family Foundation (Sinneave) is vital to ensuring a brighter future for so many in this segment of the country’s workforce. Sinneave’s work on behalf of autistic youth and adults not only seeks to improve outcomes in employment, but also in education and housing – three factors that heavily influence an individual’s quality of life.
Sinneave’s flagship employability program, EmploymentWorks, uses a combination of classroom and hands-on learning to help participants explore careers and better understand why certain skill sets are required for specific positions. With a core commitment to building partnerships, a network of employer partners hosts the hands-on component for career exploration.
When the global pandemic disrupted this routine, modifications to the 12-week program were necessary, leading to the introduction of EmploymentWorks Virtual. Similar to the original program, this instructor-led online course integrates job simulations from Employment Technologies to support career exploration and job sampling.
These award-winning EASy Simulations are specifically designed to measure the skill sets needed for key jobs and to give participants a realistic job preview. Immersed in actual workplace scenarios, participants have the opportunity to practice interacting with virtual customers to discover their needs and to deliver effective solutions. Personalized reports provide skills-based feedback and related next steps for career development. Accessibility is a win, too, as the simulations can be completed on any smart device.
“Prior to COVID, we enjoyed going out into the community to interact with our network of employer partners. When we lost that option, we were concerned about the impact on the overall learning process,” explained Ian Humphreys, Employment Coordinator for Sinneave.
“The simulations gave us a meaningful way to keep our clients moving forward, especially at a crucial time when people needed connection and were seeking a way to continue growing and developing.”
– Ian Humphreys, Employment Coordinator, Sinneave Family Foundation
“And while we continue to place a high value on visiting actual employers, to have the sort of interactive experience provided by the simulation is great, too. For example, to visit a call center and meet others doing the job is one experience, but to actually have a chance to interact with customers, albeit virtual, offers a new dimension to what we call career exploration,” explained Mr. Humphreys.
Tanya McLeod, President of The Sinneave Family Foundation agrees. “Although program participants are not experiencing being physically present in the employment setting, these highly interactive and immersive job simulations are providing participants with an opportunity to sample a variety of jobs and develop necessary skills for employment.”
“EASy Simulations allow for career exploration and job sampling that participants may have otherwise never experienced due to location, COVID restrictions, or personal challenges (e.g., anxiety) that impact their ability to fully participate. The shift to experiential learning in a safe, simulated work environment provides a great introduction into the workforce, especially for those who have never had the opportunity to be in a workplace setting,” said Ms. McLeod.
And practice builds confidence. “When engaged in a simulation, participants can practice skills by clicking the Repeat button or accessing the Help information button. These features help participants tune in to the natural supports in their environment,” added Ms. McLeod.
“The custom reports are another bonus,” said Mr. Humphreys. “The job search is just the beginning. We want to see our clients seek a career with longevity. A key piece of that building process is assessing one’s own skills, and then, as much as possible, understanding what’s involved with a position. The reports that come with the simulation go a long way towards making that happen. We use the information to coach individuals and chart their next steps.”
As Canadian communities ease COVID-19 restrictions, Sinneave plans to continue using the job simulations to enhance their EmploymentWorks programs, and help participants realize their job related strengths, areas of development, and potential career interests.
“EASy Simulations have been supportive in breaking down barriers for autistic participants, such as location access, anxiety, sensory sensitivities, and transportation, and have provided new skill development opportunities in a comfortable, accessible, and encouraging learning environment.”
– Tanya McLeod, President, The Sinneave Family Foundation