News Release – ODEN conference for businesses aims to get more employers thinking about disability-inclusive hiring strategy so companies can stay competitive in face of labour shortages

March 9, 2021 — The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN), in co-operation with five employment service providers around Southwestern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), is holding its Rethinking Disability Conference for businesses on March 24, to get more employers thinking about a recruitment strategy that can help companies stay competitive as numerous sectors grapple with a need for workers over this decade.

“This year, it’s important for businesses to start looking ahead. The pandemic will eventually end, and coming out of it, business growth is going to be rooted in your recruitment strategy,” affirms Jeannette Campbell, CEO of ODEN. “In fact, business growth is always rooted in this.”

“Our Diversifying Your Business conference can help businesses make sure they’re positioned for growth and long-term success. Recruiters and business leaders will learn how and why to access the hidden disability talent pool,” she says.

The half-day virtual event — Diversifying Your Business — is designed to get recruiters, hiring managers and business leaders contemplating all the ways the power of a disability-inclusive recruitment strategy can transform a business.

A 2018 Accenture study found, businesses that practise intentional disability-inclusive hiring experience 72% more productivity; a 45% increase in workplace safety; 28% more revenue; 30% higher profit margins; and twice the net income of companies that don’t.

“Expanding your recruitment strategy to include candidates from a source you may never have considered, is also a solution to labour shortages,” adds Campbell.

Several sectors including mining, manufacturing, small business and agriculture, are facing this challenge. The mining sector needs 100,000 new workers, and 85% of manufacturers have a hard time filling positions.

A September 2018 study by the Business Development Bank of Canada noted, companies affected by a labour shortage are 65% more likely to experience low growth.

The conference is organized by ODEN in conjunction the Windsor Essex Employment Group (; Hutton House Employment Services in London (; STRIDE, or Supported Training & Rehabilitation in Diverse Environments, in Milton, ON (; Community Living Oakville (; and Community Living Sarnia–Lambton (

Although it’s primarily designed for businesses in Ontario, “There are going to be valuable insights for any business person, wherever they’re participating from virtually,” Campbell notes. “We’ve planned Diversifying Your Business for maximum engagement within the new virtual reality that we’re all in.”

This “maximum engagement” starts with the keynote session. Keynote speaker for the event is Josh Davies, founder and director of the Denver, Co-based Center for Work Ethic Development []. Davies, a dynamic speaker whose passion is helping others make a difference in their lives, will open Diversifying Your Business with a talk titled, “2020 Foresight Not Hindsight.” The topic is designed to inspire looking ahead at possibilities after a challenging first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are also three, concurrent breakout sessions packed into the morning event.

One is titled, “What’s the Disability Awareness and Confidence Level in Your Business?”. The featured speaker is Jean-marc Valmont. He is a Human Resources Manager with The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).

In another session, “Understanding the Diversity of the Disability Talent Pool,” attendees will get a perspective from speaker Linda Ivory. She is Organizational Development Consultant – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, with Halton Healthcare.

The Halton Region chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is also holding a session on Managing Anxiety in the Workplace. The speaker, Melanie McGregory, is a Mental Health First Aid Canada Master Trainer at CMHA Halton.

There are also networking breakouts by sector: retail, manufacturing, professional services and technology.

The retail and professional services networking sessions are being hosted by two disability-inclusion advocates who are well known in Southwestern Ontario: Joe Hoffer, Managing Partner of the law firm Cohen Highley LLP in London; and Lino Tesolin, a Lowe’s Store Manager in Windsor. Both have been intentionally recruiting staff who have a disability, for over 30 years.

The Diversifying Your Business conference includes a wrap-up panel of employment service providers from around Ontario. They’ll be talking about how businesses can connect to the disability talent pool through community-based agencies.

Diversifying Your Business takes place from 9:15 a.m. to 12 Noon on Wednesday, March 24. For more details about the conference, and to register, visit An Early Bird rate of $50 is in effect until March 11. After that date, the conference fee is $75.  


For more information, and to arrange interviews

Contact Us

Dean Askin, Communications Strategist, ODEN 
416-818-1514 (cell)

About ODEN:

The Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN), created in 2008, is a professional body of more than 140 employment service providers united to increase employment opportunities for people who have a disability. Members are from every corner of the province and support people of all disability types. Beyond Ontario, ODEN ( has connections with organizations in other provinces and territories of Canada.