Pilot project with two hotels to launch autism-inclusive hiring

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The hope is to expand the initiative, in collaboration with Giant Steps Montreal, to other Fairmont properties in Canada.

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Two Quebec hotels — the Fairmont Tremblant and Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth — and Giant Steps Montreal, a school for students with autism spectrum disorders, have announced a pilot project to launch an autism-inclusive hiring initiative.

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The hotels will become the first in Canada to develop a comprehensive support program for autistic employees, it was announced Tuesday and, should the project be successful, the goal is to expand the initiative to other Fairmont properties in Canada.

Anne Marie Johns, general manager of Fairmont Tremblant, approached Giant Steps during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic after having learned of its pilot project with Loblaw Companies Ltd. — a project that resulted in an autism-inclusive hiring initiative across the country.

The chain is now recruiting autistic adults in more than 70 stores across Canada and will be increasing those numbers, said Andre Pereira, director of marketing and communications at Giant Steps and project manager for employment initiatives.

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In meeting the leadership team at Giant Steps, Johns said she quickly realized the potential and benefits of hiring neurodiverse individuals “knowing also that a labour shortage would be one of our industry’s greatest post-pandemic challenges.”

A labour shortage in Quebec’s hotel and travel industry is threatening the recovery of the sector, with 8,000 jobs unfilled in the hotel industry alone, Pereira said — even though there is a large and untapped pool of adults with autism who are ready to work.

“In our partnership with Fairmont, we are at the stage where we’ve met several times over the last few months and now we are entering the phase of beginning recruitment to fill certain positions,” Pereira said.

Giant Steps hosted a conference Tuesday at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth for industry stakeholders, “Rebuilding Quebec’s Hotel and Tourism Industry Through Inclusive Hiring.”

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The first Giant Steps student was hired this month to start working at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth and there is the possibility of a second hire at Fairmont Tremblant, he said.

The unemployment rate for adults with autism is 86 per cent, said Giant Steps director Tania D’Alesio. “We are extremely excited about this new partnership with Fairmont Tremblant and Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth and the potential to make an impact in this industry.”

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