An inclusive pilot project on the Sunshine Coast offers those with disabilities and employment barriers a well-paid job, while inspiring other employers across B.C. to do the same.

In Powell River, OneLight manufactures a fire starter from recycled materials diverted from the local landfill. It can be used to start a fire, indoors and out, in minutes. 

Now in its seventh month of operation, 25 people are getting work experience thanks to the ‘qathet Inclusive Manufacturing Pilot Project.’

More than 80 per cent of them experience developmental disabilities and/or multiple barriers to employment.

The pilot provides on-the-job work experience and skills training, with participants earning a fair wage in a new social enterprise. They’re paid for task-based industrial work, product assembly, logistics, and general sales.

The Province is providing around $1-million to the Inclusion Powell River Society to deliver the 72-week work experience opportunity, which also tests an inclusive model of employment in the manufacturing sector.

“What’s important to us is that, in the long run, we’re able to share what we’ve learned from this pilot with other employers so that people will have opportunities to be employed in their communities,” says the society’s CEO, Lilla Tipton.

“I think it’s very important for people in terms of their mental health, their well-being, their ability to contribute back to society, to be able to support themselves, and in terms of their self-esteem and general well-being,” she adds. “It’s important that people are able to have employment.”

Participants and managers undertook an intensive two-week orientation process prior to the pilot launch, with the shared workplace culture noted by participants as being a critical success factor.

Jenny, a parent of a OneLight participant has noticed a huge rise in her son’s development.

“He’s remembering a lot more, problem-solving a lot more. It’s good that he tried other things before OneLight and as a family, we tried different things,” she says.

“The fact that this is successful shows that it’s being done right. It’s a really big forward movement and I hope they can expand it and give more people purpose.”

This is a new Community and Employer Partnership (CEP) project from the Government of British Columbia. It kicked off in September of last year, and activities run through to April 15th, 2022.