New accessibility initiative launched to support OC students facing co-op barriers

By Public Affairs | July 14, 2020

Leslie Munro
Leslie Munro, Student Services

Co-op has long been a staple of the Okanagan College experience, offering students from a variety of study areas the chance to gain job experience and practical training in the workplace. But what happens when a student faces accessibility barriers in finding work?

Okanagan College’s Accessibility Initiative and survey, run by members of the College’s Student Services team, seeks to break down those barriers. The project received funding from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training for work integrated learning initiatives and started in January 2020 and will conclude by the end of March 2021. To help gain student perspectives, a survey was sent to all eligible students to capture responses on their ideas, thoughts and experiences around barriers to co-op.

The survey, which closes on Friday, July 24, is helping to gather much needed input for the initiative which is being coordinated by Okanagan College employee Leslie Munro. Responses are kept anonymous and the feedback is being utilized by Munro and her colleague’s in OC’s Student Services team to identify the tools, resources and needs of students in the area of co-op accessibility. 

“In relation to students with accessibility needs, although there can be many exceptions, overall the research shows that working-age adults with disabilities face many barriers in the Canadian labour market,” says Munro. “Co-op provides the opportunity for students to understand and solve problems, navigate barriers and learn about available supports in the workplace while in a protected environment.”

Munro is hoping for a robust student response to the survey, so that the project team can gain insights into how best support them moving forward. 
“It’s important for students to participate because we want those who will be affected by any enhancements to inform us on the changes they actually need and want.”

Some of the tangible goals of the initiative include improving tools and resources for students and employers and working with community partners to identify the gaps and where partnerships could be of benefit. 

“No one organization can do everything and there are a lot of community organizations doing a lot of great work in different areas, such as supporting those with mental health concerns, learning disabilities, chronic health concerns just to name a few.”

Student Services Accessibility Initiative graphic, puzzle pieces with text overlay

Community partners also serve as a point of connection for students and the initiative helps raise awareness for the resources that are already available to students through the Co-op department. 

“It’s important for students to have knowledge of community supports since their time at the College is finite and they may require supports after their post-secondary studies and at various other times in their life.”

In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, Munro adds that co-op is a win-win for everyone, regardless of where they find themselves and what the job-market will look like in six months. 

Eligible students for the survey include those who are currently able to take co-op through their program as well as students who were registered with Co-op and Accessibility Services within the past five years. Students are encouraged to check their inboxes or junk mail for the email. Current students in co-op eligible programs are entered into a draw for a $500 grocery gift card once the survey has been completed.

For students who are interested in voicing their ideas or questions or share their experiences in greater detail than what the survey permits, they can email Leslie Munro.

Go to the College’s Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment webpage to learn more about the co-op opportunities available through various programs.

Tags: Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment, Services for Students



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