Dylan Morin and Jarred MacDonald are true ambassadors of the University of Regina, embodying campus values like calm, care, and compassion. Since starting their jobs as caretakers with the U of R’s Custodial Services in January 2020, they have been tasked with the critical role of ensuring that the University is a clean, safe environment for those who are on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also take pride in welcoming visitors, students, faculty, and staff to campus with a smile – from behind a mask, of course – and a cheery “Hello!”
Across Canada, October is designated as Disability Employment Awareness Month. Throughout the month, inclusive employers, such as the University of Regina, are celebrating their workers and raising awareness of the importance of providing meaningful paid employment for former students like Morin and MacDonald who experience intellectual disabilities.
“We are very fortunate to have Dylan and Jarred on our team,” says John Papandreos, Manager of Custodial Services, who has been instrumental in advocating for inclusive employment opportunities at the University. “They are outstanding workers who are contributing purposeful and essential work, especially during COVID when we have such a large need for a clean environment.”
Since the pandemic began, Morin and MacDonald have been working hard on the Custodial Services’ team to disinfect touchpoints around main entrances and exits on campus.
“Right now, I go to all the areas on campus and I’m wiping down touch points, like elevator buttons,” explains Morin, who seeks to make positive connections with people as he carries out his job tasks. “I’m just trying to do my best to keep the University safe.”
Students, staff, and faculty around campus know Morin and appreciate his outgoing, friendly personality, which provides him with a sense of satisfaction in his work and of belonging to the University community.
“I hear ‘thank you!’ from people,” says Morin. “From time to time, I get people asking where a building is and I’ll describe it the best I can. From being a student to being a staff member, I know the University well.”
Both Morin and MacDonald are graduates of the University of Regina and were supported by the Campus for All (CFA) inclusive, post-secondary education initiative, which provides adults who experience an intellectual disability with the opportunity for an authentic university experience. This initiative includes three pillars: academic, social networking, and employment.
“The students we support are no different than any others,” says Faith Savarese, Coordinator of the Campus for All initiative. “At the end of their education, they want to be employed and contribute to the community, so we created an employment project called 4to40 with our community partner Creative Options Regina. The staff at 4to40 identify potential employers and provide on-the-job support like job coaches, so that our new employees can more easily learn their job tasks and integrate into the workplace.”
Since the creation of 4to40, many current and former students supported by CFA are now employed, and more employers are realizing the benefits that hiring inclusively brings to their workplaces.
“Their work ethic is top notch,” says Papandreos. “Dylan and Jarred contribute to a positive work culture. It’s hard not to embrace these guys. There’s huge benefits to the U of R in terms of supporting an inclusive employment philosophy, which receives strong support from U of R senior administration. For the individuals, it gives them a sense of purpose and contribution to the greater good. It works wonders for their self-esteem and so they produce high quality work. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Recently, the University has extended the term positions of both Morin and MacDonald for another year, and Papandreos hopes to one day make their positions permanent.
Like any other workers, Morin and MacDonald look for stability, inclusion, and a sense of satisfaction in their jobs.
MacDonald cleans door and stair handles, as well as benches, and enjoys joking with his supervisor. “My favourite part of working at the University is my cart,” says Jarred, whose strong work ethic keeps him constantly on the go. “And getting a pay cheque.”
Murray Peterson, MacDonald’s job coach for the past year and a half – and close friend – is amazed by MacDonald’s commitment to doing the best job he can.
“He’ll never take a full lunch hour,” says Peterson. “Maybe 15 or 20 minutes and then we’re going back to work. Go, go, go.”
As a result of being University employees, MacDonald and Morin get the same benefits as other University employees.
“Sick time, vacation time, a pension – this is not something Jarred normally would have expected from any job, so the fact that he has that at the U of R is indispensable really,” says Peterson. “The quality of life here amazes me. I’m so impressed with everything the University has done for him and with him.”
Helping an individual to develop their strengths is an important part of empowering new employees.
“Dylan’s job coach used to be here five days a week and is now down to two days a week,” says Donna Flaman-Johnson, an inclusive employment broker for the 4to40 organization. “We want to see graduates of Campus for All gain confidence in their skills, abilities, and job tasks. Then, they can work more independently and may one day mentor others.”
Posted: October 20, 2020—