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Program provides retail training for people with disabilities

Province funding Leg Up! to Retail program for job seekers with developmental disabilities in Simcoe County
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The Ontario government has announced a new partnership with Simcoe County to provide job skills training for people with developmental disabilities.

The initiative will see over $300,000 invested in the Leg Up! to Retail program, which will offer an eight-week course to empower individuals to find meaningful work in their community.

The project is funded by Ontario’s Skills Development Fund, a more than $200-million initiative that supports programs that connect job seekers with the training and skills needed to secure gainful employment within their region.

“Our government is on a mission to help people find meaningful work close to home and lead purpose-driven lives,” said Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development. “Through funding programs like the Leg Up! to Retail program, we’re giving people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to gain crucial life skills and help them find jobs in the retail industry that they can be proud of.”

The Leg Up! to Retail program, created in collaboration with Project Read, will teach essential retail skills, such as customer service, communication, retail math, and completing sales transactions, to individuals who face barriers to employment. The program will also cover fundamental employment knowledge, including job professionalism, conflict resolution, and finding a work-life balance.

In Simcoe County, the Orillia and District Literacy Council and Empower Simcoe have partnered to offer the Leg Up! to Retail course, along with job placement assistance after program completion.

“Meaningful, paid employment means independence, financial security, new friendships, and a connection to the community — employment is a game changer for everyone,” Empower Simcoe’s chief executive officer, Dr. Claudine Cousins, commented.

The Leg Up! to Retail program offers a real solution for the struggling retail labour market, which is having difficulty staffing its stores in the aftermath of COVID-19. With many individuals who worked in retail sales retiring, taking positions where they wouldn’t be exposed to COVID-19, or making a lifestyle change and moving on from their roles, employers are struggling to find staff. Hiring employees with a developmental disability provides employers with a viable solution for their staffing needs.

“We know this will help job seekers to find and maintain their employment by building and applying their literacy skills through practical experiences while also supporting the retail employers to find the candidates they need,” Robin Crank, project manager, Project Read Literacy Network, said. “The retail sector has struggled through the pandemic, and this new training will make it possible for more adults to access these jobs.”

This Employment Ontario project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

For more information about the Leg Up! to Retail program, please contact Robin Crank, project manager, Project Read, at [email protected].

For more information about Empower Simcoe, please visit

For more information on literacy services in Simcoe County, please visit