Metro Vancouver, B.C. – “A lot of the employers when he went for the interview would think he didn’t care about the job, but it had nothing to do with that. It’s just the way he functions.”
Shawn Rill’s father says his son is very intelligent. In fact, he constantly made his high school’s honour roll.
“It wasn’t that he couldn’t do the job,” he added. “It’s just nobody would give him a chance.”
Shawn has autism. And while he has the skills to be successful in the workforce, he struggled with the social aspects of getting a job, and maintaining one. After he and his family saw an ad in the local paper, Shawn enrolled in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) Access Program for People with Disabilities (APPD).
APPD has two tracks – a work exploration program, and a job preparation program, which is designed to meet the vocational needs of adults with disabilities seeking competitive employment.
“The program helped us pinpoint where his strengths were in the workforce,” said father Stephan Rill. “Because he had a lot of that practice in the classroom, he was a little more comfortable going to see the employer. If we had done that in real life, it probably would have taken a lot longer.”
This Friday, institutions and organizations across the country will celebrate the fifth anniversary of ABC Life Literacy Canada’s Essential Skills Day. It was founded in 2010 to raise awareness of the Canadian government’s nine essential skills and their importance in daily life. In addition to reading, writing and thinking, these include document use, working with others, computer use and continuous learning – all of which are incorporated into KPU’s Academic and Career Advancement (ACA) programs.
“I really see Essential Skills as a kind of umbrella over all that we do in ACA and at KPU as we stimulate and facilitate learning with our students. We want them to be intentional about their learning and to find multiple ways to develop the skills and experiences that will make them top choice for B.C. employers,” said Patrick Donahoe, dean of ACA. “I love to watch student self-confidence grow as they make the connection between learning here, a work life beyond university and service to the community.”
The faculty is marking the occasion by opening up in-class conversations on essential skills, and how these tie into what ACA students learn in their programs – like the skills Shawn Rill honed to help him find his place in the workforce.
“By him getting that chance here, it really gave him a sense of worth, a sense of ‘why am I here’, what do I do. And he contributes to society now, which really makes him feel good,” said Rill’s father.
He added that the entire family is thankful they found the program because of what it’s been able to give Shawn.
“The difference between him not having a job and having a job, and feeling that self-worth and that confidence that he has now – it’s like two different people.”
The focus on essential skills at KPU fits with the province’s key skills agenda, and actively prepares students for employment. To learn more about KPU’s Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement, visit: kpu.ca/aca. More information on Essential Skills Day is available here.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at www.kpu.ca.
Media Specialist, KPU