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Autism job fair connecting job seekers and employers

Toronto-based Substance Cares has recently organized its 8th annual job fair, dedicated to helping job seekers with autism with finding meaningful employment opportunities. This event attracted nearly 1,500 participants eager to showcase their skills to over 40 employers across various sectors including government, IT, hospitality, and banking. Remarkably, the fair offered positions that ranged from entry-level to mid-career and even managerial roles.

The necessity of such initiatives is underscored by data from the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, which reveals that among Canadians over the age of 15 with autism spectrum disorder, only 33 percent are employed. This leaves more than a staggering 65 percent of adults with autism unemployed, a statistic that the job fair aims to improve.

Organized by Neil Forester and Xavier Pinto, the co-founders of Substance Cares, the Autism job fair transitioned to a virtual format post-pandemic. This shift has not only broadened the reach to employers beyond major cities like Toronto and Vancouver but also made the event more accessible to individuals with autism in rural areas. Additionally, the virtual setting helps prevent the sensory overload that some participants may experience at physical events.

One success story from the fair is Nadira Badri, a 35-year-old from Toronto who secured her first full-time job through the Spectrum Works virtual job fair in 2021. She still works at CIBC as a verification officer three years later, and attributes her success to the support of her mentors, family, and friends who encouraged her to attend the fair and land the job. She hopes that other job seekers in her position will have the same opportunity as she did. “A job fair is always good, but it’s also good when you have people who support you,” she said. “I’m grateful to have this job every single day.”

“We have a community of almost half a million people in Canada where, given the right opportunity, the right education, the right skills and the right training, a good majority of those people can help fill some of those labour shortages,” says Forester. “At the end of the day, if we can’t get somebody employed, at least we can give them experience, and, you know, hope.”

This year, the fair received participation from notable employers like EY Canada, signaling a growing recognition of the talents and capabilities that individuals with autism bring to the workforce. Forester and the organizing team are hopeful that the fair will continue to bridge the employment gap for adults with autism, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

Learn more about the Spectrum Works virtual job fair