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Guiding Principles

Developed as part of the Provincial Employment Strategy for Youth with Disabilities, these principles describe a set of precepts for supporting youth with disabilities throughout their employment journey. They represent the employment-related support needs of youth (age 15-30) with disabilities (including mental health and substance use challenges).

Provide programming that is flexible and responsive to the youth to adulthood transition

As young people transition from childhood to adulthood, they’re faced with decisions about their futures. They’re forming their identities and learning what’s important to them. Their environments, relationships and priorities are changing. For YWD, there is the added complexity of barriers.  

Adult-focused programs aren’t designed to support the complex change and growth that YWD face. To meet the needs of this demographic, employment programs need to support the range of learning, exploration and change that governs daily life.


Encourage self-exploration, awareness, and empowerment

Most youth are learning who they are, building their self-awareness and identity. By supporting this exploration, employment programs can help youth with personal development and self-awareness. This will empower them to understand who they are and what they want to contribute to their workplace and community. Youth should have the information and resources they need to make informed decisions.  


Create environments that are safe and accommodating to all identities and disabilities

Youth need safe and accommodating spaces that promote self-expression, exploration and discovery. The right program environment can help youth explore and understand who they are and what they want. It can help them to explore what work means to them, which can clarify their motivation and goals for employment.  


Respond to a continuum of needs and experiences

Each youth comes to the employment journey from a different place. Some YWD come from families with resources available to support their development. Others are living in poverty, or do not have family, resources or support. Some youth experience intersecting barriers to employment. Each youth’s capacity to engage with programming and move through the employment journey is unique.  

Each young person is also at a different stage in their employment journey. Some have a clear idea of what their employment goals are, while others may not be ready to consider employment as an option. Some are ready to pursue their first job, while others are looking to grow in their careers and engage in professional development. It’s important that support is available to all youth, regardless of their capacity to engage.  


Emphasize continuous learning and career growth

Employment experiences are a type of learning that helps YWD understand who they are and what they want to contribute to the world. Youth learn what works for them and what doesn’t. They use this learning to make informed decisions on how to move through their employment journey. Because there’s so much trial and error for young professionals, programming for YWD needs to have a long-term focus. Support should be available throughout the employment journey so youth can develop their goals as their understanding of who they are and what they want to do evolves.  

YWD have much to offer. Their strengths, skills and potential should be nurtured at every stage of their employment journey.  


Promote wellness

YWD are facing crucial life transitions during times of constant change and uncertainty. Their defining years are taking place in a world that is rapidly evolving. This can have a significant impact on mental health. Today’s youth also understand the importance of wellness and place value on environments that promote it. Employment programs can better meet the needs of YWD by addressing mental health challenges and promoting overall wellness throughout the employment journey.  

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