Student stories

Recreation and health education student supports youth employment through coaching and grant writing

Nicole Bracewell

CanAssist

Recreation and Health Education student Nicole Bracewell worked for CanAssist in two different capacities throughout her work term—first as a job coach and then as a special projects coordinator. In both positions, Nicole worked as part of the TeenWork program, which seeks to create meaningful employment opportunities for youth who face barriers to employment. Nicole reflects on her unique experience at CanAssist below.

What is CanAssist?

CanAssist is an organization of the University of Victoria (UVic) that is dedicated to increasing awareness of disability issues and supporting people with disabilities to improve their quality of life. Unique in North America, CanAssist adopts a client-focused approach to provide programs in three key areas: technology development, youth employment, and academic engagement.

CanAssist envisions a society where all people have the opportunity to participate, contribute, and reach their full potential.  The organization strives to be a highly respected national resource that collaborates with UVic researchers and students, as well as diverse external partners, to provide people who experience physical or cognitive barriers with innovative technologies, programs, and services that address unmet needs and increase independence, inclusion, and well-being.

Life as a TeenWork job coach

In May 2019, I initially joined CanAssist’s TeenWork program as a job coach. The TeenWork program is designed to help youth with disabilities and mental health challenges find and retain meaningful, part-time paid employment while attending high school. Participants, ages 15-19 years, attend 8-12 weeks of employability skills workshops to develop a broad range of skills and knowledge to participate in the labour market. Following the completion of these workshops, TeenWork job coaches provide personalized, one-to-one support to youth in finding and retaining meaningful employment, as well as on-site job coaching.

As a job coach, I was responsible for creating customized employment opportunities and facilitating small group employability skills sessions with four youth facing barriers to employment. I guided participants through a series of activities that helped to determine the types of jobs that would suit their interests, skills, and abilities.

Becoming a special projects coordinator

For the remainder of my co-op term, my workplace priorities unexpectedly shifted towards assisting with special projects and grant writing. In July and August, I supported CanAssist leadership in writing TeenWork’s federal funding application for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy grant. Being my first large-scale grant application, this task opened my eyes to government structure and the process of writing grants.  As a result of my focus on this project, my job title changed to TeenWork’s Special Projects Coordinator.

What I learned from my work term

Working at CanAssist allowed me to apply many of the concepts presented in my courses. My prior knowledge of adaptive sport and recreation, inclusive language, and accessibility greatly enhanced my experience at CanAssist. Similarly, when engaging with local Indigenous communities on behalf of TeenWork, I considered many topics and protocols I had learned in my classes. This practical application included me initiating partnerships with Indigenous organizations to provide more culturally-relevant service delivery. I also arranged for all CanAssist staff to receive UVic’s Indigenous Cultural Acumen Training in late June.

In my short time with TeenWork, I learned that everyone, regardless of their barriers, has a role in the labour market. There are opportunities for customized positions in almost every workplace that benefit both the employer and the employee. TeenWork creates lasting impacts for the youth it supports, including increased self-esteem and independence.

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