From Training to Triumph: CompassWorks is Breaking Down Employment Barriers


CompassWorks participants © Photo Courtesy of Easter Seals BC Yukon

When Connie began her 22-week, on-the-job work experience-training program at Easter Seals House in Vancouver, she had no idea how much it would change her life.

“If I had to express my feelings in a word, it would simply be ‘life-changing’,” she said. “I am an older woman, and I thought I had done it all and wasn’t sure what I would get out of CompassWorks, but I was completely wrong.”

CompassWorks is a program for adults with disabilities that gives certification to obtain entry-level employment in the hotel industry. Developed by Easter Seals BC & Yukon, the program helps remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

“Though there has been much improvement over the years, there is always more to do to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal chance to participate in all aspects of society,” explained Erica Evans, Director of Client Services at Easter Seals BC & Yukon.

© Photo Courtesy of Easter Seals BC Yukon

Unlocking Potential

While many people take their jobs and careers for granted, people with disabilities face many obstacles and challenges in finding meaningful work. They may not have been able to pursue the education or training needed for many careers and can therefore lack the skills and experience employers seek. Moreover, persons with disabilities deal with an all-too-common lack of acceptance in many workplaces.

Participants who take part in CompassWorks come from all different stages of life. Some have just graduated from high school, some are older and looking for a career change, and for others, their disability has made it so they need to look at different avenues of work.

“We designed CompassWorks so that it would help break down barriers that people with disabilities find daily in the workplace,” explained Evans. “Everyone deserves good-paying jobs, and CompassWorks provides the skills training that people with disabilities need to help them be both competitive candidates during job recruitment and successful employees in the workforce.”

What sets the CompassWorks program apart is its holistic approach to training. The program’s emphasis on hands-on experience at Easter Seals House (a 49-suite medical accommodation hotel in Vancouver), combined with skill training in areas such as food safety and computer skills, creates a truly unique and comprehensive training experience. Participants take their learnings from the classroom and are able to practice their skills through various roles at Easter Seals House, such as at the front desk and in housekeeping.

“I have taken several courses during my life, and this has been the most pleasurable. I have learned so much more than just how to work, but so much about myself too,” added Connie. “The staff whom we are doing work experience with are so patient, and most importantly, want to see us thrive in the workforce. They are unlike any instructors or teachers I have ever worked with. They treat us like people and friends, which makes for a comfortable learning experience.”

Empowering Abilities

Research shows that when persons with disabilities can access meaningful employment, resources and services, Canada’s economy grows. Businesses have the chance to welcome more customers, service satisfaction improves, and workplaces reflect Canada’s diversity.

In partnership with the B.C. Government and organizations like the Fairmont Hotel, the program works with the community to ensure that the hands-on and in-class training that is taught will directly help participants gain good-paying jobs.

Easter Seals BC Yukon
© Photo Courtesy of Easter Seals BC Yukon

Because of partnerships like these, Connie, along with the other participants, is taking part in internships this summer and applying the skills they learned at Easter Seals House in a real work setting. “I am forever grateful and cannot express in words what this has done for me,” said Connie.

“We really rely on our partnerships and the generosity of our donors to make this program such a success for our students,” added Evans. “Giving them real-world internships allows our participants a chance to take the skills they learn at Easter Seals House and apply it in real life with employers in a job setting. They can then add that experience to their resume, giving them a competitive edge when applying for jobs in the hospitality field. The first group of graduates from our new CompassWorks hospitality training program now have the skills and experience to find rewarding careers.

“What has been most rewarding for me in this program has been watching the CompassWorks participants gain more confidence each day as they grow in their roles and gain a sense of purpose. It’s amazing to see how much of an impact skill building and recognition can make in someone’s life.”

It is the support from generous donors that drive the success of this program and help people like Connie improve their lives.

If you would like to donate to Easter Seals BC & Yukon and make a difference in the life of Connie and other persons with disabilities, visit

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Easter Seals BC/Yukon is a service of the BC Lions Society For Children With Disabilities. As a trusted charity since it began from the vision of the East Vancouver Lions Club, Easter Seals is dedicated to providing programs and services to persons with diverse abilities that help build their self-esteem, self-confidence and sense of independence. 


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