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Finding a place in the job market

Mehreen Shahid

By Mehreen Shahid, Orillia Packet & Times

MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES
Alex Cockman, 27, found his passion for baking at Mariposa Market with his placement through the career centre, a part of the adult and continuing education branch of the Simcoe County District School Board.

MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES Alex Cockman, 27, found his passion for baking at Mariposa Market with his placement through the career centre, a part of the adult and continuing education branch of the Simcoe County District School Board.

Alex Cockman had worked in several fast food restaurant kitchens, but it was baking that really stirred his pot.
The 27-year-old Orillia resident was able to make the connection with Mariposa Market through a placement procured with the help of a provincially sponsored program, Youth Job Connection, offered by the adult and continuing education branch of the Simcoe County District School Board.
The program, run out of the career centre housed with the Orillia Learning Centre on 575 West St. S., aims at helping youth aged between 15 to 29 years to find the right job in the area.
What started out as a placement has now turned into a full-time job for Cockman.
“I learned a lot of things,” he said. “I learned I enjoy keeping busy and don’t like taking too many breaks. It gave more of a schedule to my life. And showed my kids it’s good to work to get the things you want in life.”
For Bob Willsey, owner Mariposa Market, the placement program helped him find the perfect employee.
“It’s a nice way to bring people in, and they can prove themselves and demonstrate what they’re capable of,” he said. “(Alex) has a good work ethic and he’s reliable and shows great willingness to learn.”
But the perfect employee isn’t just born, sometimes the person has to be carefully crafted, said Carolynn Michlowski, one of the employment consultants at the career centre.
“The participants are required to go through 60 hours of pre-employment training,” she explained. “That really functions for them to understand skills required in the work place. A lot of what we cover is career decision making and understanding where they fit within the work place and the work force so they can make educated decisions about where they see themselves in the long term.”
Each student gets a small stipend for attending the pre-employment training, which focuses on skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution, problem solving and communication, said Michlowski.
“Lots of people, especially youth, now are not starting work as early as they were before,” she said. “Often, they don’t have experience, and they don’t have skills required to jump in and do the job. So this helps them understand what is required of them at work.”
Michlowski and her colleague Jonathan Duncan, in collaboration with the youth and prospective employer, prepare an individualized employment plan to be followed throughout the eight to 12-week long placement. The plan helps outline specific skills to be learned, with weekly follow ups done by either of the two consultants.
“Most employers are pretty open, they’re looking for people with initiative and motivation,” said Michlowski. “(And) most employers are eligible for a wage incentive; that’s where we look to reimburse some of the wages they’ve paid the individual.
“We (also) provide employment support for the candidate, say if they’re going to work at a warehouse and don’t have steel-toe boots, we help provide that for them,” she added.
Sometimes, youth coming in for the placement have low self-esteem and don’t necessarily see how the program will benefit them, said Duncan.
“Every client we deal with has a barrier, and we’re able to overcome a lot of that through the pre-employment program and the placement itself,” he said. “We’re able to help get them over the barriers and in many cases (find) full-term employment at the end of the program.”
Overcoming barriers was one of the most important lessons Sarah Middleton-Valliere has learned through her placement at the Orillia Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
“I think they covered a huge variety of different things,” said the 21 year old from Orillia. “It definitely helped me be a little more confident in asking the proper questions at the work place, like for a raise.”
Middleton-Valliere said she chose to work at the ReStore because she has grown up volunteering in the community.
“It’s a great experience to be able to have an opportunity to be involved in the community,” she said. “I love being able to talk to new people every day. Each day is a different experience. Generally, I’m on cash, but I also greet donors and re-arrange furniture and do appraising of items and help around with anyone who needs help.”
Even though full-time employment isn’t promised with every placement, especially for those done with a non-profit, it still gives the youth a strong a stepping stone for applying for future jobs.
“This gives you a reference and confidence to take on the world,” said Donna Godfrey, store manager. “If I had a position open, I’d hire (Sarah) in a minute. She’s a good fit with the other staff and volunteers. That’s one of the most important qualities for me. She’s learned quickly and has initiative.”
Placement programs right now are being run every two to four weeks or depending on the influx of clients coming in either on their own or through community partner referrals. For more information on how to participate, visit barriecareercentre.com or call 705-725-8990.
mshahid@postmedia.com
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