Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In contrast, the other committee has recommended guidelines for the university and college education system. In addition, some members from both committees have joined to form the Education Technical Sub-Committee. This Sub-Committee recommends guidelines to prevent and remove barriers students face during transitions. Transitions include beginning school, and from high school to work, community life, or postsecondary education. In this article, we outline the Sub-Committee’s recommendations for accessible transitions from school to work.
Accessible Transitions from School to Work
In addition to K-12 Committee recommendations for experiential learning programs, such as job placements, the Sub-Committee recommends accessibility in co-operative education programs (Co-Ops). Schools and organizations providing Co-Op job placements should ensure that students have all the accommodations they need during the program, including:
- Support staff at the job placement, if needed
- Transportation to and from the job placement
These accommodations will help students recognize their need for employment accommodations, and how to arrange them.
Furthermore, employers should be able to recruit students directly from their experiential learning placements. Therefore, the ministries of Education, Colleges and Universities, and Labour, Training and Skills Development should plan to support such recruitment. Similarly, the Ministries should provide students with psycho-vocational assessments and support student access to co-op placements aligning with those assessments.
Moreover, the Ministry of Education should work with other sectors to create more Co-Op placements for students transitioning directly from high school to employment. In addition, they should create more placements in similar programs that prepare students for employment and independent living, including:
- The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)
- The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)
- Community involvement opportunities
Furthermore, school boards should provide information about alternative credential programs that students can access, such as micro credentials.
School boards should also ensure that every experiential learning placement follows all requirements in the AODA’s Employment Standards, as well as any standards under the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD). Similarly, placements must uphold students’ right to accommodation in employment under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Likewise, school boards should ensure that these placements will be fully accessible, equitable, and inclusive to students with disabilities.
Support for Accessible Transitions from School to Work
In addition, stakeholders in the successful transition of students with disabilities into employment should share lessons and best practices. These stakeholders include:
- Members of the K-12 and post-secondary education sectors
- Provincial and Federal employment providers for people with disabilities
- Business associations
- The Ministries of:
- Colleges and Universities
- Labour, Training and Skills Development
Moreover, all these stakeholders should identify and remove barriers to employment that students with disabilities face.
Furthermore, The ministries should work together to create a database of resources to support educators helping students plan for transitions to:
- Postsecondary education
- Work and volunteer placements
Finally, the Ministry of Education should provide more training for school staff on transition planning for students with disabilities, such as individual pathways plans. For example, school staff who should receive this training include:
- Special education and school support staff
- Guidance counsellors
- Staff involved in co-op placements
- Transitions facilitators or navigators