Canadian Association for Supported Employment

DEAM All Year Long: An Interview with Jamie Thiessen

By Chantelle Painter, Consultant and Business and Relationship Development Professional 

This month we sat down with Jamie Thiessen, a Workplace Inclusion Strategist with Gateway Association, a family and employment resource centre that provides services in Edmonton and Calgary. We discussed Jamie’s view on how the activities promoted during Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM) can be carried forward into the year ahead to expand the positive impact of practical inclusion practices.

Storytelling is Key

Social platforms are lit up during DEAM with everything from great infographics to colourful invitations. Jamie was quick to express the impact their stories have on other individuals.

Beyond the impression and reactions online, the greatest human response is the one we feel when we connect to another person through their stories.

We discussed at length the systems and KPIs and numbers we all seem to work towards, but they noted: “Until life is given to the numbers, they’re easy to skip over. Giving attention to individual stories of success over barriers draws attention and gives real life reference.” 

Storytelling personalizes numerical inferences, and the work becomes real. 

Photo: Person with dark skin smiling and wearing safety glasses stands in a warehouse. Text: “Until life is given to the numbers, they’re easy to skip over. Giving attention to individual stories of success over barriers draws attention and gives real life reference.”

“A Small Space to Take Small Steps”

In their daily practice, Jamie leads by identifying individuals’ skills and abilities. This approach has not only been rewarding for success in their role but has also been life changing for the job seekers they work with. 

Providing a “small space to take small steps” allows for individuals to gain an appreciation for what they bring to the table, despite the negative messaging and the barriers they may have experienced. Working with individuals to increase their confidence through possibilities beyond survival is essential to supporting not only employee but also organizational success. The job seeker’s excitement at being given the freedom to hope and imagine and dream and to discover their skills and abilities creates drive, engagement and hope.

Issue Resolution through People-Centric Solutions

Through their Monthly Manifest on LinkedIn, Jamie showcases the abilities of the individuals they are working with and frames skills as the focus of the employment journey. By “expanding passion into employment” for job seekers and building purpose into networking for hiring managers, careers are made.   

Organizations should be focused on issue resolution for business by way of people-centric solutions. So often we get stuck in our systems and the thinking that ”this is the way we’ve always done it.”

By being thoughtful and relevant and bringing humanity back into our processes, we stop overlooking the people standing next to us and start appreciating what we can accomplish together.

Chantelle Painter is a consultant and business and relationship development professional with over 20 years’ experience in corporate retail and non-profit collaboration. Chantelle is skilled in Relationship Building, Coaching, Retail, Customer Satisfaction, Driving and Measuring Engagement, and Policy Development.