Written by Desirée Imeish, Employment Consultant, SLC Employment Service
Historically, human success was measured by survival and evolution. The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way the world engages in business, technology, health, education, employment, environmental and socioeconomic contexts. With this shift arises different measurements of human success.
At present, Eastern Ontario is being measured by its level of community engagement. All levels of government are focusing their efforts into funding local sustainable community development. St. Lawrence College (SLC) has embraced the shift and has been actively engaged in stakeholder, community, and partnership development. I would like to highlight one such success, among many that SLC’s Innovation and Business Engagement Department has accomplished.
Skills Advance Ontario (SAO)
SAO is a Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development funded pilot program, designed to focus on workforce development. The SAO:
- Supports workforce development in specific sectors by funding partnerships that connect employers with employees
- Supports workers who experience barriers in the labour market
- Is sector-focused in all aspects of delivery, including skills training, pre-employment, and employment
- Responds to employer demand and the local economy
- Focuses on advancement, preparing jobseekers and workers to succeed and advance in their employment
The specific focus of this SAO was equity and employment initiatives. Diversity, and inclusion, which has been championed for decades, is now at the forefront of Human Resources. Eastern Ontario is experiencing a shortage of employees across most industries, and COVID-19 exacerbated existing gaps in employment and equity. This program was designed to address these gaps.
St. Lawrence College successfully partnered with Kagita Mikam and the City of Ottawa to support a specific SAO that focuses on equity and employment initiatives. SLC has partnered for over 5 years with Kagita Mikam on an employment initiative called Pathways to Employment. In this SAO, a cohort of 10 comprising of Indigenous youth and adults, as well as racialized and immigrant youth and adults participated in the program. The 10 participants face the greatest barriers to employment and are the furthest from the labour market and economic opportunities.
With the support of Glenna Schaillee, Manager – Skills Training & Economic Development, Innovation and Business Engagement at SLC, the program included SLC as a training provider to deliver the Office Assistant Program. Participants would receive a college level education to apply to employment opportunities.
Let me introduce you to participant 1, who is an Indigenous female and participant 2, who is a racialized female newcomer. They both obtained direct employment through this program, and it has been life changing for both. Prior to the program life was different and challenging. Both expressed that they cannot believe they were hired by the Federal Government after the program, in positions they would usually get screened out of. The joy and optimism these women expressed was palpable. Not only are they now able to be participants in the labour market and economy, but they also expressed pride and hope in the future and looked forward to being active participants in their community.
- Provided direct employment and placement
- Reduced economic barriers, making training and work experience more accessible
- Prepared participants for meaningful work in their communities
- Curriculum development
- Addressed the needs of local businesses
- Two participants accepted Federal Government contracts upon completion of training
- Several participants began work placements with the Gift in Kind Program and the Rideau Hub
We measure success as the cumulative effect of helping people to realize their potential as employees, who are then able to support their families and communities and to ultimately serve as champions themselves of the change. Without partnership and measurable impacts, communities will not thrive. SLC supported this SAO and has a strategy for community engagement and successful outcomes. This is a change that Canadian society needs for its overall social and economic improvement.