With the rapid growth of the tech sector, a diverse workforce is more important than ever. Given that there are approximately 500,000 working-age adults with intellectual disabilities or autism in Canada, this is an untapped talent pool that can assist our sector as it continues to grow.

When looking at diverse and inclusive hiring practices, there are many things to consider – so we spoke with the team at Autism Nova Scotia to learn a little more about Ready, Willing, and Able (RWA). This national initiative has been designed to increase the labour market participation of people with an intellectual disability or autism by focusing on the business case for inclusive hiring.

About Ready, Willing, and Able
Co-leading Nova Scotia’s delivery of the RWA Program is David Paterson, who has been with Autism Nova Scotia for over seven years.

“Ready, Willing, and Able is such a great initiative because people with intellectual disabilities or autism represent a large untapped pool of talent often overlooked by employers,” says David, “Our work is to support employers tap into the business value of hiring inclusively and dispel the misconceptions of disability.”

RWA partners up with employers across the country and discovers their labour needs. Then, RWA provides the organization with access to qualified candidates with autism or an intellectual disability through their employment agency partners. The employer then conducts interviews, which RWA can help accommodate, to determine if there is a candidate who is the right fit for the position.

Once the candidate is hired, RWA introduces the employer to the employment support agency who provides support for the new employee, such as an employment coach, education sessions, and strategies. This has been an effective model to help transition both the employee and the employer into the practice of inclusive hiring by offering a bridge to set up success from the beginning.

Success Story: Gogii Games
Several Halifax-based tech companies have already taken advantage of the untapped workforce within Canada to strengthen their team, one being local company, Gogii Games.

“We were looking to hire a Quality Assurance Tester for our gaming studio,” says Darryl Wright, Managing Director at Gogii Games. “When I found out about Ready, Willing, and Able, I realized this could be a great fit for our hiring need.”

For Darryl, it was a typical hiring process, with the exception that RWA enhanced his hiring pool by introducing him to RWA’s candidates. After interviewing candidates from both RWA and general job listings, Darryl decided to hire his new Quality Assurance Tester, Patrick, who happened to be a candidate from RWA’s pool.

“The interview went well and Autism Nova Scotia provided encouragement and guidance where I needed it. I was hired on part-time before moving on to full-time work after two months.” says Patrick.

In his role as a Quality Assurance Tester, Patrick is responsible for finding the bugs or any gameplay deficiencies in Gogii Games’ products. An avid video-gamer for his entire life, Patrick possesses what Darryl calls “an encyclopedia of video game knowledge”.

“Having someone with Patrick’s skill set is great because he sees things so differently than others do here. I’m an engineer by trade, so when I look at a video game, I’m looking at the mechanics of it – does the button I push do what it was designed to do. If it does, I believe the game is successful and move on. But for Patrick, he understands that it’s not just about if the buttons work, but where the buttons are located on the screen, and how it looks when a character jumps, and a bunch of other aspects that I would never have thought of when designing a game,” shared Darryl.

Now, Patrick has been with Gogii for over two years, and is one of the company’s longest-tenured employees.

“Gogii has been a great place to work over the last two years. There’s a lot of repetitive tasks that have to be done every day, which works fine for me since it’s a consistent routine. My coworkers are pretty laid-back, the hours are flexible, and Darryl has been very supportive. I’m also good friends with several of my coworkers and we often meet up after work to play a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that has been going for the last year and a half.”

This successful hiring experience has elevated Darryl as a champion of inclusive employment initiatives, like RWA, when looking to find qualified candidates to fill a position: “I would encourage anyone to hire inclusively when they have the opportunity to do so, no matter what sector you are in. Any company that is just blatantly overlooking that candidate pool because of some preconceived bias, or misconception, is missing out on a great opportunity, and great employees.”

Think This Could Be Right For You?
If you are looking to take the first step to hiring inclusively, reach out to Ready Willing & Able for an exploratory conversation. This initiative is the first-of-its-kind in Nova Scotia, and has generated over $1,934,571 in total taxable income within the province since 2015.

To learn more, check out their website or contact David Paterson directly.