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Speaker Bios 2022


Victoria Maxwell

Victoria Maxwell, BFA, BPP*  is a sought-after international (and funny) keynote speaker, performing artist and workshop leader. She uses her personal story of recovery from mental illness to increase awareness, transform negative beliefs and ignite powerful conversations about mental health. Blending 30 years as an actor, and 15 as a wellness warrior, Victoria inspires people to take immediate action to improve their well-being. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has endorsed her one-of-a-kind keynote performances as one of the top anti-stigma interventions that creates lasting shifts. Named one of Canada’s top leaders in Mental Health by the National Centre for Addiction and Mental Health centre (CAMH) and honoured with the National Difference Makers award; two scientific studies have shown her theatrical keynotes reduce stigma. Prior to her diagnosis, Victoria was an actress during the 90’s, playing small roles opposite actors such as X-Files’ David Duchovny, John Travolta and Johnny Depp. She’s blogged for Psychology Today for over 8 years.

Session: Opening Keynote, Thursday November 3; 9:00 AM


Open Door Group
Nicole Allen has been working in social services for over 15 years. Currently, she is the Regional Director of Employment and Disability Services for Open Door Group, one of the largest non-profits in British Columbia. She is responsible for acquiring and developing contracts to support more inclusive and diverse services and programs. She currently oversees all 12 specialized health, training and employment program contracts at Open Door Group. Her responsibilities include the development of program structures, implementation plans, and evaluation methods to ensure program framework, processes, procedures, and evaluation plans are in line with contract expectations and obligations fostering more effective inclusive and diverse services.
Session: Why Put Accessibility at the Forefront of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion? Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
Dr. Matt Ayres is the Chief Labour Market Economist with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills. Matt heads up the Labour Market Information Office, that produces a 10-year labour market outlook for B.C.
Session: Ministry Update, Friday November 4; 11:00 AM


Free Rein Associated
Peter Bailey has worked with Free Rein Associates in every capacity since 1993. Peter is a certified employment counselor, holding the BC Career Development Credential. He also has a business certificate from BCIT and the Provincial Instructor’s Diploma through VCC. It is Peter’s personal value that the Free Rein services help community members develop their careers to enhance their quality of life and therefore the quality of life in the whole community. 
Session: DUMB Goals, Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM


Community Social Services of BC
Suncha is a workplace learning coach at the Federation of Community Social Services of BC. She has experience in mental health counselling and education. She has also supported youth within the social services sector. Her passion is helping others discover the best version of themselves.  Lynda is a career advisor at the employment services centre of Prescott-Russell located in Quebec.
Session: Team Health Leadership: Avoiding the Pathway to Burnout, Friday November 4; 9:00 AM


Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction
Karen is Assistant Deputy Minister, Employment and Labour Market SD. 
Session: Ministry Update, Friday November 4; 11:00 AM


Life Strategies 
Dr. Roberta Borgen (Neault), CCC, CCDP, GCDFi, is President of Life Strategies Ltd., Project Director with the Canadian Career Development Foundation, and President of the Counsellor Educators Chapter of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. An award-winning career management specialist with almost four decades of relevant experience in counselling, coaching, consulting, training, curriculum design, research, and writing, Roberta recently retired as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences for Yorkville University and served on Team Canada for the 2017 International Symposium on Career Development and Public Policy in Korea.
Session: Self Employment & Entrepreneurship, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM



Annette Borrows has been serving people with disabilities towards employment for the past twenty years, gaining experience in working with people who have mental health diversities, mobility and cognitive complexities. She has also written and facilitates the Supported Employment Specialist series and specializes in customized employment. She has spearheaded, and written content for Canada’s National Supported Employment Best Practices found at employmentforall.ca. Annette is the Employment Strategy Manager for Langley Association, Delta Community Living Society and Community Futures of the South Fraser. She holds a degree in Adult Education as well as Certification in Workplace-Based Training. Annette has served on the Canadian Association for Supported Employment board since 2011.
Session: Hearing Voices, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM


Downtown Victoria Business Association 

Jeff Bray grew up in Vancouver, B.C. After graduating from UBC, he embarked on a 13-year career with the BC government. Community-oriented, Jeff is the Co-Chair of the Coalition to End Homelessness, Former Vice-Chair of the Royal BC Museum Foundation, Former President of the Former MLA Association of BC, and Former Vice-President of the North Quadra Community Association. Jeff joined the Downtown Victoria Business Association, first as the interim Executive Director in November 2017. He joined the association permanently in April 2018.
Session: Employer Engagement Panel, Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM


ETHOS Career Mgmt. Group Ltd.
Deborah has extensive experience in the fields of adult education, performance management and project management. Working in the industry for over 30 years, Deborah has provided innovative and relevant learning solutions to small business, corporate clients, and government agencies in a variety of industries. Applying her expertise in training needs analysis, learning evaluation, and project management, Deborah’s learning solutions, tools and processes have measurably enhanced learners’ performance. She has also facilitated lively and informative training and conference sessions across Canada and the U.S. 
Session: Self Employment & Entrepreneurship, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM


Mission Community Skills Centre
Diana began with Mission Community Skills Centre Society in March 2019 and in November she was promoted to Manager of Employment Programs and Human Resources. Diana is passionate about people and is a champion for their growth; whether she is advocating for clients or for her team. Diana has been in the Career Development field for almost 15 years and has worked for various organizations as Facilitator, Case Manager, Job Developer, and Program Manager.
Session: Staff Recruitment & Retention: What Are Others Doing? Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM 


ETHOS Career Mgmt. Group Ltd.
Zak: Entrepreneurship SME with ETHOS, holding a degree from Queens University Smith School of Business in Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation, and currently a PhD candidate in Business, Entrepreneurship and Law from Northumbria University, England.
Session: Self Employment & Entrepreneurship, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM 


CanAssist, University of Victoria
Emily is a Psychology Graduate from the University of Victoria. She joined the Provincial Employment Strategy team as a co-op student, and now works as a Research Assistant. She supports all project research and manages the Social Media Plan. 
Session: Employment Support for Youth With Disabilities, Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM


 As manager for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at MOSAIC, Sandhya Ghai is passionate about achieving mindful inclusion and fostering safe and brave spaces for individuals and organizations to learn, unlearn and relearn. 
Session: Leadership for a Multicultural Future, Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Beacon Community Services
Tricia is the CEO of Beacon Community Services and treasurer of ASPECT. She has more than 20 years of executive and senior leadership positions in community, employment, and vocational rehabilitation services. Tricia is the Past President of the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada and a Certified Vocational Rehabilitation Professional and Registered Rehabilitation Professional.
Tricia has also appeared as an expert witness before the Canadian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Her recommendations about the delivery of front-line health and well-being services were included in the committee’s report on improving quality of life for Canadian veterans and their families.
Session: Staff Recruitment & Retention: What are Other Employment Services Providers Doing? Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM


Marium partners with governments across North America to enable digital transformation of their talent development. Prior to LinkedIn, she led BHER's work-integrated learning programming and was President of UBC's Student Union. She currently advises the FSC and BII+E on their Future of Skills research. 
Session: Lunch Keynote, Thursday November 3; 12:30 PM


Douglas College
John Harrison is a skilled Sales and Management Professional with over 30 years of leadership experience across a wide variety of industries. John is an accomplished instructional designer and trainer having created and facilitated workshops and training solutions for a wide variety of organizations. Currently, John is serving as a Community and Contract Services Programmer with the Training Group at Douglas College managing several employment and workplace-training projects including the Peter Legge Institute for Sales Excellence.
Session: Connecting Canada's New Skills Framework with Employment Services, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM


Jake Hirsch-Allen builds PPPs between governments, workforce development organizations, PSIs, and LinkedIn Talent Solutions. He is on the Boards of Ontario Tech Talent, Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity, ICTC, and founded Lighthouse Labs.
Session: Lunch Keynote, Thursday November 3; 12:30 PM


Riz Ibrahim is the Executive Director of CERIC. Riz works with CERIC’s Board and Committees to develop partnerships that enhance the body of knowledge for Canada’s career professional communities. Additionally, Riz oversees all areas within CERIC’s mandate including the Cannexus Conference, the CareerWise and OrientAction websites, and the Canadian Journal of Career Development.
Session: Employer Engagement Panel, Thursday November 3, 11:00 AM; Replenish Your Tool Kit, Thursday November 3, 1:30 PM


CanAssist, University of Victoria
As the Provincial Employment Strategy Coordinator, Rebecca engages in research and stakeholder collaboration towards the development of the BC Employment Strategy for Youth with Disabilities. She obtained her PhD in Education at the University of Glasgow. 
Session: Employment Support for Youth With Disabilities, Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM


Douglas College
Danica is a program coordinator and career coach at Douglas College.  
Session: Connecting Canada's New Skills Framework with Employment Services, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM


Untapped Accessibility
Trish is an accessibility subject matter expert who has supported Canadian organizations in the public, non-profit, and private sectors to operationalize accessibility and inclusion. Her knowledge of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility is informed by her experience as a leader in socially responsible organizations, as a justice-focused advocate in the community, and as a child of a disabled parent. Trish identifies as a member of the 2SLGBTQAI+ community and is a citizen of the Métis Nation of BC with family ties back to the Prince Albert and Red River communities.
Session: Why Put Accessibility at the Forefront of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion? Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Creative Employment Access Society
Terry Knight has been with Creative Employment Access Society since 2005. Like most Creative Employment people, she settled in and never left. In her role as Finance and Administration Manager, she works closely with the Executive Director on HR policies. She is passionate about maintaining a fun, respectful, and high achieving workplace culture..
Session: Staff Recruitment & Retention: What Are Others Doing? Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM 


Laurie is the Senior Manager of WorkBC and is focused on creating an inclusive leadership model for clients and staff. She will be graduating with a Master of Arts in Leadership in 2024. 
Session: Leadership for a Multicultural Future, Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Accessibility and Inclusion Matter Consulting
As an educator with a Master's Degree in Special Education and as a person with a disability herself, Melissa Lyon (she/her) offers self-paced or synchronous online accessibility and inclusion courses through her company. Melissa has experience working in various BC post-secondary institutions where she worked to support their diversity and inclusion initiatives.  She has also worked with various non-profit organizations, as a consultant, writer, resource developer, and a volunteer. Her areas of expertise include knowledge and strategies for both K-12 education & post-secondary education; creating resources or courses related to disability awareness, inclusion, & accessibility; and mentoring other people who have disabilities.
Session: Why Put Accessibility at the Forefront of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion? Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


With Indigenous Education Lorelei provides social and emotional support to Indigenous learners and their families based on the Medicine Wheel; Emotional, Physical, Spiritual and Mental areas of their life. With 2 Metis women, Lorelei offers comprehensive and engaging culturally based workshops to support balance, self-care, mindfulness and community building.
Session: Smudge Medicines Lessons, Friday November 4; 9:00 AM 


BC Partners in Workforce Innovation
Jamie is the Principal of MacLeod Silver HR Business Partners based in Vancouver, BC and an Inclusive Workforce Consultant with BC Partners in Workforce Innovation.  Jamie has an extensive Human Resources background of over 30 years, specializing in workforce diversity and inclusion, recruitment, training and HR start up.  Her experience spans multiple industries.  She has developed and delivered diversity training programs for both public and private sector employers. Recently, she co-authored Untapped Talent B2B Guide on Innovative Recruitment and Retention, a resource for employers on how to easily adapt each stage in the recruitment, onboarding and retention process to be able to hire more people with disabilities in their business. Jamie is also currently leading the development of recommendations to Accessibility Standards Canada on recruitment and retention standards to support the new Accessible Canada Act for federally regulated employers.
Session: Why Put Accessibility at the Forefront of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion? Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
Andrew Mercier was elected MLA for Langley in the 2020 provincial general election. He serves as the Parliamentary Secretary for Skills Training. Andrew is a labour lawyer and an active member of the Langley community. He attended the University of the Fraser Valley and earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Brunswick. He holds a Juris Doctor from Dalhousie University. Prior to his election to the Legislative Assembly, Andrew worked as legal counsel for Teamsters Local Union No. 213 and served as the executive director of the BC Building Trades Council, where he advocated for improved safety standards for construction sites. Andrew has served his community on the University of the Fraser Valley Board of Governors, and the City of Langley's Crime Prevention Task Group. Andrew was raised in Langley, where he lives with his wife and two young children.
Session: Opening Keynote, Thursday November 3; 9:00 AM


Janet Morris-Reade is the CEO of ASPECT BC (Association of Service Providers for Employability and Career Training).  At ASPECT BC, she works to provide leadership, education, advocacy, and public awareness in support of community-based workforce development service providers, working with government and stakeholders to ensure that the needs of those seeking a meaningful and sustainable livelihood are met. 
Session: Rural & Remote Project, Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Val has been in the industry for over 30 years and was the CEO of North Island Employment, she is now providing guidance and consulting all over the province. She is the president of ASPECT BC.
Session: Rural & Remote Project, Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM; Work BC Contractors Meeting, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM


Implicit Career Services
‘The Implicit Career Search’ (now available in workshop, coaching and online versions) has been operating since 1994. A couple of successful corporations have used the approach to, surprisingly, increase their staff retention and engagement numbers.
Session: Strategic Career Planning, Friday November 4; 9:00 AM 


CanAssist, University of Victoria 
 As the Provincial Employment Strategy Team Lead, Sarah monitors and manages the progress of the project. She has her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, a Certificate in Non-Profit Management, and four years of program design and development experience.
Session: Employment Support for Youth With Disabilities, Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM 


Untapped Accessibility
Stephen is a seasoned executive who works with organizations to develop accessibility strategies. He focuses on implementing pragmatic solutions that comply with legislative requirements and creates powerful inclusive teams. Stephen’s combination of lived experience, being profoundly deaf from birth, and his years of business experience as CEO of a national manufacturing business, board chair of a non-profit organization, legal background, and strategic management consulting, all add value to his clients. He’s also a TEDx speaker whose talk “How to Listen Better – Tips from a Deaf Guy” was translated into twenty languages. He is currently producing a web TV series on “Listening in a Silent World” funded by Telus STORYHIVE.  A documentary on his life appeared on CBC and PBS.
Session: Why Put Accessibility at the Forefront of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion? Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Canadian Career Development Foundation
Dr. Deirdre Pickerell is an internationally recognized, award-winning, industry leader with over 30 years’ experience in career and workforce development. She led the feasibility study research team and is Career Development Professional Centre’s project lead. 
Session: Career Development Centre: What's Next? Friday November 4; 9:00 AM 


Open Door Group
As CEO of Open Door Group, one of BC’s largest not-for-profit employment service providers, Alona Puehse brings a strong track record in international business development and a fierce desire to support people access opportunities through employment. 
Her passion and entrepreneurial vision quickly became a beacon within the organization. She has led many key initiatives, including the recently launched Disability Inclusive Employer Self-Assessment, a tool based on international best practices that support employers improve accessibility and inclusion in the workplace. She has a genuine passion for accessibility, diversity and inclusion, social justice, and lifelong learning, demonstrated through her work at Open Door Group and in the community, serving as a Board member for multiple organizations.
Session: Why Put Accessibility at the Forefront of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion? Thursday November 3; 1:30 PM


Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa 
Natasha is the executive director at Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa hotel. 
Session: Strategic Career Planning, Friday November 4; 9:00 AM 


Ministry of  Social Development and Poverty Reduction
Nicholas Simons is the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the vice-chair of the Cabinet Committee on Social Initiatives. He is also a member of the Cabinet Working Group on Mental Health, Addictions and Homelessness. Nicholas previously served as Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth. Nicholas spent over 15 years working in the areas of health, justice, social services and child welfare. 
Session: Opening Remarks, Friday November 4; 8:30 AM


Valri Smith is the Account Director, BC Governments and Crowns. Since 2014, Valri has helped to introduce and deliver LinkedIn learning, hiring, and engagement solutions to governments and Crowns across the country and was instrumental in establishing a province-wide contract that delivered LinkedIn Learning to every library in British Columbia.
Session: Lunch Keynote, Thursday November 3; 12:30 PM


Life Strategies
Cassie Taylor, has over 10 years of experience supporting a vast array of diversity-focused projects from conceptualization, data gathering/analysis, and creation of tools, resources, and presentations/workshops. From local to international, Cassie’s work seeks to improve career development services through fostering culturally-informed practices rooted in empathy, understanding, collaboration, and data. 
Session: Self Employment & Entrepreneurship, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM


ETHOS Career Mgmt. Group Ltd.
Matt is a Business Coach and Small Business Specialist with 10+ years of experience providing excellent customer service and problem-solving approaches. Matt has been instrumental in helping our clients learn in an online environment. 
Session: Self Employment & Entrepreneurship, Thursday November 3; 3:00 PM


Victoria Chamber of Commerce

 Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, is one of Vancouver Island's most recognizable faces. As a public figure and former broadcaster, he is known for his integrity, altruism and unique ability to create successful partnerships and collaborations. Williams is well known for his impeccable communication skills. His in-depth knowledge of economic development and strong connections to leaders and decision makers have made him an effective engagement and development strategist for business, non-profits and First Nations. Williams’ background includes experience as a CEO, as well as diverse roles on senior management teams. He has chaired non-profit boards and spearheaded fund-raising campaigns.
Session: Employer Engagement Panel, Thursday November 3; 11:00 AM

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