Group of people on stage smiling at the camera with the inclusive employer excellence logo behind them on a projector screen

2023 Inclusive Employer Excellence Awards Winners Abbotsford School District, Chalo Freshco, Minuteman Press, Kal Tire, and Tracycakes (not pictured)

Five local businesses were recognized for hiring and supporting people with diverse abilities at the 2023 Inclusive Employer Excellence Awards (IEEA) held on October 11th.

Nearly 150 people attended the morning event at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Centre, which was hosted and organized in partnership by Archway Community Services, Bethesda, Communitas Supportive Care Society, and WorkBC Abbotsford.

“This annual event is about celebrating businesses that have demonstrated a genuine commitment to inclusive hiring and inspiring this further,” says Caleb Wee, Employment Services Manager with Bethesda. “Many of the businesses in attendance hire the clients that we serve, so we also want to show our appreciation for all they do.”

Event Partners

Archway Logo
Work BC

Twenty-one businesses were nominated by the public in several categories. The 2023 award recipients are:

Outstanding Commitment to Inclusive Hiring

Creative Workplace Accommodations

Community Champion for Inclusive Employment

Emergent Inclusive Employer

Inclusive Employer of the Year Award

Event Sponsors

Beyond celebrating these businesses, the IEEA serves as a platform to raise awareness within the business community about the benefits of inclusive hiring.  

Statistics show that staff retention rates are 72% higher among people who have a disability and that customers prefer to give their business to companies that hire inclusively. 

“This event is a testament to the fact that businesses that embrace diversity and inclusion are not just surviving; they’re thriving and setting the standard for success,” said Matt Dirks, Chief Innovation Officer with Communitas. 

Keynote speaker, Yat Li, a disability advocate and Senior Accessibility Consultant at Presidents Group, discussed how his disability had affected his life and how businesses need to implement action plans to support those with diverse abilities. 

“One in five British Columbians self-identify with having a disability, that’s about 20% of BC’s population,” said Li. 

Man on stage speaking to group of people

Keynote speaker, Yat Li, a disability advocate

Given these staggering statistics, it is not only a strategic business move, but a matter of social responsibility to hire inclusively.

Simren Thind, an Employment Specialist with Archway, was one of the master of ceremonies of the event. She shared how she was impressed by the number of employers nominated and in attendance at the event.

“By recognizing and celebrating these inclusive employers, the IEEA inspires a new wave of businesses to prioritize diversity and inclusivity in their hiring practices,” said Thind.

Doug Bried, general manager at Kal Tire, accepted the Inclusive Employer of the Year award on behalf of Kal Tire. Bried has hired inclusively for years, working with the Archway Employing People in the Community (EPIC) program and is thankful to the support of the staff for helping him navigate inclusive hiring.

“The EPIC staff have always been very involved. There’s always lots of communication and they gave me everything I needed to support [my staff].”

Bried’s comments reflect how much support is available for employers who are considering hiring inclusively.

Alison Davidson, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist with WorkBC, agrees. Her advice to any employer who might be hesitant about inclusive hiring is to take a chance.

“Inclusive hiring may be uncharted territory for some, but within it lies untapped potential, unique perspectives, and a more resilient and innovative workforce.”

The event was made possible with the sponsorship support of ICBC, Rotary at Work, Inclusion BC, Abbotsford Canucks, Blue Oak Physiotherapy, and Buxton Consulting.

three men on smiling at camera standing next to each other. The man in the middle holds a glass trophy.

The Inclusive Employer of the Year award went to Kal Tire on Coutts Way (Left). The award was presented by last year’s winner, Abbotsford Canucks (Right)

Outstanding Commitment to Inclusive Hiring
Abbotsford School District

Creative Workplace Accomodations
Minuteman Press

Community Champion for Inclusive Employment
Chalo Freshco
three women smile at camera in front of brick store front.
Emergent Inclusive Employer
Tracycakes Bakery Cafe

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