By Cole Parkinson
A government funded program is in its second straight year at the Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association (TDCALA).
The Youth Employment Program is back again providing youths who face barriers to employment such as speaking little English, mental health issues, addiction issues or a criminal record a chance to get into the workforce.
“This is a federally sponsored program, it’s a skills linked program and it’s funded by the Government of Canada for 15-30 years of age that are facing barriers to employment. So what it details is they come in for six weeks of employability skills training where we really look at what their strengths are,” said Jane Brenner, TDCALA executive director.
The program got its re-start in September and TDCALA have an agreement with the Government of Canada to extend the program for the next three years.
“We’ve been very fortunate to sign a three-year contract so the first intake start(ed) September 18,” said Brenner.
The three-year agreement will see a total of eight intakes going through 2020 with eight students accepted into each intake.
In the past, TDCALA had run the program with great success but there had been uncertainty with whether or not the program would be funded again by the Canadian government.
“We did this program about seven years ago and we did it for three years, then the government cut the money, then they brought the money back and we did two intakes last year. Out of the two intakes we had 20 youth, each one of them when we did the exit interviews told us how life changing it was for them,” said Brenner.
The youth who had participated in the program made sure to let the government know how they felt about the proposed cuts to funding of the program.
“The students, who seven weeks before that could hardly look you in the eye, were writing letters to Justin Trudeau. All of a sudden they are citizens of Canada and they have a voice, they know who they are and they are going to say something,” said Diane Llewelyn-Jones, youth employment program facilitator at TDCALA.
Llewelyn-Jones says that one of her favourite things about working in the program is seeing the youth find their voice and get an idea of how valuable they are to the community.
“They get a picture of who they really are and they get excited about all of their talents and skills that haven’t been tapped into and I think that’s the most fun thing about the program.”
Getting them prepared to join the workforce is a big key for the program as it starts with a six weeks in class program and after those six weeks are up it shifts to nine weeks of work experience with a company that fits their field of choice they are interested in.
The staff at TDCALA hopes the students can pick up useful skills throughout the program and apply them once they officially join the workforce.
“Not only do they learn concrete this is how you do this, all of those black and white requirements for being in the workforce, but what they really walk away with is how they themselves can contribute to the workforce,” said Llewelyn-Jones.
Another benefit of the nine week portion of the program is the participant gets a chance to try out the position they think they are suited for.
One thing staff hear from many of the citizens who pass through the program is why they didn’t see these types of courses in their high schools.
“The things that we expose them to, a lot of the kids that finish our program say why isn’t this in high school, why didn’t we learn all of this. We test their learning style because a lot of them end up being very hands on learners which is not high school and so they think that they’re not smart or don’t belong in education but in reality they’re incredibly smart, that just wasn’t their learning style,” said Llewelyn-Jones.
For the entire 15-week course the eight accepted participants get paid minimum wage and once they find a company that accepts their internship, the TDCALA will provide anything needed to be able to do the job such as steel-toed boots or a fork lift ticket. The intake process starts with an interview with the applicant to make sure they would be a good fit for the program. If they are accepted, they will receive a call back.