Employment agencies optimistic about change

Come April, if you’re unemployed and looking for assistance, you’ll be helped courtesy of the province’s new Employment Program of B.C.

Come April, if you’re unemployed and looking for assistance, you’ll be helped courtesy of the province’s new Employment Program of B.C.

The idea is to provide ‘one-stop shopping’ for employment services, a plan which, when proposed, was met with consternation by many small service providers in B.C., who feared they would be wiped out, local knowledge would be lost and clients would not be well served. In Salmon Arm and Sicamous, some of those fears now seem to have been allayed.

Locally, the contract was awarded to WCG International out of Victoria, which partnered with area service providers in its application.

The plan, says Tania Bennett of WCG, is to start the program with a total of 20 staff – or the equivalent of 20 full-time positions – in a storefront and a satellite location.

In Salmon Arm, the storefront will be at what’s now the home of the Employment Place at 310 Hudson St. NW, with some added space upstairs. There will be a satellite office in Sicamous at the current Employment Place, which will likely employ two full-time staff, with more staff travelling from Salmon Arm as needed to offer specialized services, said Bennett.

The Salmon Arm storefront will house staff from four different agencies:  WCG, Bowman Employment Services, Goshen Consultants Inc. and Snowy Owl Counselling – known locally as Pathways. The four agencies will provide what are called case management services, working with the client from the time they walk in the door until they find employment.

“That piece, the most intensive, is critical to the client achieving employment,” Bennett says.

WCG will be hiring eight staff to serve between Salmon Arm and Sicamous, and preference will be given to Employment Place staff who want to apply, she said. WCG’s three partners will have a total of 12 staff.

Other service providers Bennett lists along with the four at the storefront location are: Community Futures Shuswap, Stepping Stones Consulting, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, Credit Counselling Society of British Columbia, Shuswap Settlement Services Society, Okanagan College, Neil Squire Society and Bridges for Women Society.

“We’re just really excited about this particular catchment in Salmon Arm; all of the existing service providers are included in the model – but not in every community. We’re really pleased to be working with such great providers.”

Heather Rolin, a partner with Goshen Consultants, said she is satisfied with the overall plan.

“We’ve worked with WCG for over five years in different contracts and, with a large number of service providers going with them, it’s probably the best-case scenario for our area.”

She said maintaining local expertise is crucial to providing service to the community.

“I think because of the willingness for everyone to work together, we’re probably going to fare better than in some communities.”

Bernie Desrosiers of Shuswap Settlement Services said he, too, thinks the new program will work well and is looking forward to it.

Jim Niemi of Stepping Stones said service providers will know better how well the program will work once it’s up and running.

“I think we all get nervous around change, but I think the group involved can provide good service… The utmost concern for me is providing healthy client services; that’s what we’ve done in the past and that’s what we want to do in the future.”

Some service provider jobs will likely be lost with the new program, he says. And he, too, points to the ability of local organizations to co-operate within the new model.

“I think Salmon Arm’s pretty fortunate to have a community that really does work together.”

 

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