Photo credit: Alejandra Pavez & "Employment Matters Too" by Edmonton filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk
Cody Strass, Workplace Assistant, is famous throughout the halls at ATB Place in downtown Edmonton for his moonwalk.
He also has a few running jokes going with various colleagues, which he throws out as he walks by the desks on each floor, taking care of his daily duties. These include greeting, delivering mail, cleaning and helping with clerical duties. Cody, for his part, doesn’t hesitate when he describes the best part about working at ATB.
“Making friends,” he said.
Cody started at ATB in May 2013 as part of Inclusion Alberta’s Rotary employment partnership. The program helps individuals with developmental disabilities find employment.
And now, two years later, worktime Cody is going primetime Cody. He’s the subject of a new documentary called Employment Matters Too, by Edmonton filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk. It airs Saturday, August 29 at 7 p.m. on CBC’s Documentary Channel in Alberta and B.C.
Cody is pretty clear about what it means to him to be part of the documentary project.
“It’s a dream come true. I’ve never been part of something big like this before,” he said.
“Cody has taught me that there are jobs that are important for people with intellectual disabilities in large companies like ATB,” said filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk.
“Having his job at ATB has helped Cody's self confidence and it continues to grow. The employment gives him an opportunity to meet other people and to build a network outside of his home, where he lives with his mother, who is a single parent. The job provides Cody with his own life and friends separate from his mother, so he is not as dependent on her when it comes to his future,” Yanchyk said.
Wendy McDonald, Executive Director of Inclusion Alberta, approached ATB and asked if the company would consider hiring individuals through the Rotary employment partnership. She says it’s important that companies like ATB that actively support the community participate in programs like these.
“All of those things that you and I take for granted about our life are the things that we work to support individuals with developmental disabilities to have,” McDonald said.
“We have, in Alberta, a staggering unemployment rate for adults with developmental disabilities that sits at about 80 per cent. We know that it’s a huge gap and we need it to change.”
Businesses that participate in the employment partnership always have positive things to say, McDonald says, including ATB’s President and CEO, Dave Mowat.
“Dave says all the time that Cody lifts the place up. And that’s something that we hear all the time. That this is somebody who makes a difference,” McDonald said.
McDonald says that the individuals who participate in the program often explain that pride is the overwhelming feeling they have about working and contributing to a company.
“Pride they have not only in the organization they work for, but in the job they’re able to do,” she said.
“We’re changing this notion that people with developmental disabilities can have more than a job, they can have careers and contribute for a long time as long as they want sometimes in an organization,” McDonald said.
As for Cody’s career plan, he says he’d love to stick around ATB for at least another five years. And then? He’ll try to follow his real dream.
“I’d like to be in the WWE,” he said, with a smile—worktime, primetime, show time!
“Employment Matters Too” will air on CBC's Documentary Channel on August 29th at 7pm in Alberta and BC. Look for it online at cbc.ca/edmonton and cbc.ca/calgary.
Watch the promo here.