A local program that readies aboriginal youth for employment is set to begin next month, thanks to a federal funding announcement to the tune of $41,000.
The funding will go toward the YWCA Prince Albert’s Smart Career and Employment program — a 15-week effort that helps prepare aboriginal youth from the ages of 16 to 30 for employment.
“They want to work, but may have barriers that are preventing them,” YWCA Prince Albert executive director Donna Brooks said.
“There’s a shortage of people in the service, retail and hospitality industries, and it helps people enter these jobs.”
By the end of the program, some participants go on to receive further schooling, instructor Connie Banks said. With only 50 per cent of participants holding a high school diploma, many go on to earn their high school equivalent.
For those who want to go directly to work, the program provides enough certification to get them started.
“Before you start a career, you have to start in that field,” Brook said, noting that starter jobs like flipping burgers can lead to better things.
First Aid, CPR, Food Safe, resume writing and various other certifications and fields of study are covered, Banks said.
Teaching life essentials is key — “Everything that should have been taught before leaving the house, but for whatever reason they haven’t,” she explained.
“They all have different barriers … There’s self esteem, child care issues (and) addictions …. Most of them don’t know where to start.”
The most prominent barrier she’s found in Prince Albert has been self-esteem — something she said the program’s social atmosphere of like-minded individuals working to better themselves helps provide.
They want to work, but may have barriers that are preventing them. - YWCA Prince Albert executive director Donna Brooks
Visiting various businesses in Prince Albert, Banks finds success stories related to the program all over the place, with students from the past six years of programming having found employment.
Lately, though, it’s been more difficult for the between 70 and 80 per cent of students who complete the program to find employment.
“They don’t get calls back,” she said of those that drop off resumes and job applications. “I’m not sure what the reason is.”
This seems to fly in the face of the idea that there are plenty of jobs available in the city to those who want them and have the requisite skills, she said.
Although still difficult, Banks notes that after going through the program and receiving the required skills and certification, the likelihood of earning a job is much greater.
Registrations are currently being accepted, with 16 spots available for the program, which is set to start in September. Forms are available at Our House at the corner of 15th Street and First Avenue East, and the YWCA location on Central Avenue next to the Prince Albert Court of Queen’s Bench.
The program’s funding is in keeping with the Tories’ Economic Action Plan, Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback said in a press release.
“Our government’s top priority is creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity,” he said. “The government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy is helping youth develop the skills and gain the experience they need to get jobs now and prepare for the workforce of tomorrow.”
A similar program, open to people of all ages, will begin in January and is funded by the provincial government.