Editor’s Note: The story below was altered to remove funding commitment references following its publication in the Oct. 26 edition of The Taber Times. The Times apologizes for any confusion.
By Greg Price
Youth Employment Services in Taber is already off to a strong start giving Taberites the skills needed to enter a challenging work place with the Youth Employment Program.
Under the umbrella of Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association, the program officially launched in Taber earlier this month, the purpose of the 17-week program is to provide the chance for youth and young adults to overcome barriers to employment, by providing them with skills, experience and abilities to make the smooth transition for youth 15-30 years old who are out of school, unemployed or underemployed which the program is targeted for.
“We target people such as single parents, individuals who did not finish high school or who are facing other barriers to employment such as residing in a remote location, physical or ethnic minority, recent immigrant youth, and ESL literacy,” said Dwayne Eagle Child, program co-ordinator for Taber Youth Services.
Other barriers may include inadequate skill sets, lack of social supports (family, friends, community), lack of previous work experience, poor self and/or behaviour-management abilities, or physical/mental/emotional social challenges.
The program is funded with the help of Service Canada and TDCALA, according to Eagle Child, and is over 17 weeks long (eight weeks classroom, nine weeks work experience), providing 595 hours of combined classroom and work experience. Instruction involves motivation and mentorship, personal development, self reliance and budget skills, career assessment and personal well-being with an emphasis on nutrition, computers and technology, employment readiness, workplace and social media etiquette, post-secondary tours, portfolio development and supervised work experience.
Last week, members of the program went to volunteer at the local food bank with many different organizations buying into the program with its concept. The young adults and youth that are now in their third week of the current program have a wide range of employment goals when they leave the program including carpenter/plumber, auto mechanic, firefighter, animal biologist, baker, pipe fitter, veterinarian, and interior design.
“Part of what we want to do is have them explore the career space with the occupational classifier. They are doing a research project of what it takes to get into what they choose,” said Eagle Child last Friday, as the class took to the computer room at the Youth Employment Services, with the current class comprised of six females and four males, with the youngest being 16 and the oldest being 29 years old, with its workplace located at 5327 48th Ave., in downtown Taber.
“Yesterday, (Thursday) we did public speaking with the Toastmasters. We’ve brought in Occupational Health and Safety and Community Futures. Then they will be working on their computer skills, anything to do with Microsoft, right from beginner to advanced. We have been building on our essential skills and been learning how to apply that to their work experience. We have had a lot of support from the community. MCC help with our communal area with dishes, a furniture store behind us donated a couch and a chair, Moonlite Graphics did our graphics for our correspondence and our cards.”
The program is constantly revolving with 10 new students coming in while the old class is entering the work experience part of the program. The work area offers a computer lab area, a facilitator room for guest speakers, two smart boards, a creative arts area which Diane Llewelyn-Jones, a fellow facilitator of the youth program, partakes in to inspire students, and a lunch room in which students are taught proper nutrition.
“Every Wednesday we do a cooking day using the Canada Food Guide and half the group goes shopping with a budget of $8 per person where they come in prepared to cook for everyone,” said Eagle Child.
“At the end, they will do a Power Point presentation on what they have learned with all the skills they can apply. They will also go through mock interviews so they can prepare themselves for interviews when they try and get into the workplace. We will bring them to Lethbridge College as well if they want to continue their education and literacy. There are a lot of things we have thrown into this program in a short time, where we will continue to build and improve.”
The program is five days a week, seven hours a day. Students enrolled in the program get paid minimum wage by Service Canada.
“This program is very rewarding. I’ve been working with youth for almost 20 years now,” said Eagle Child. “I’ve always been interested in advancing the skills of our youth to better prepare them for tomorrow. These skills can be applied to many different occupations. We are opening them up to transitional skills, in this labour market with a lot of people leaving oil and gas, they have to diversify and transition to other occupations.”
The Youth Employment Program is continually accepting applicants where people age 15 to 30 can apply online at the Taber Adult Learning website or they go to the TDCALA office at 5011 49th Avenue in the provincial building, where an assessment will be done by Sharla Kane. You can also call Taber and District Adult Learning at 403-223-1169 for more information.
“The program is about helping youth find their voice when they don’t have one through support systems,” said Eagle Child. “We want to give them some independence in their career choices.”