Graduates eager for new start after “In the Cocoon” completion

Jason Kerr
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For graduates of the “In the Cocoon” program, life is about to change.

Loretta Henderson delivers the Valedictorian Speech at the “In the Cocoon” graduation ceremony on Monday. 

After six weeks in the employment preparation course, students celebrated their achievements with a graduation ceremony on Monday before they head out into the workforce.

“It feels really awesome,” program graduate and valedictorian Loretta Henderson says.  “I’m honoured and I’m really excited to get my life started.”

Job placement and pre-employment preparation courses are common in Canada, but “In the Cocoon” is somewhat unique.  For one thing, the six week course is a lot shorter than similar programs, making it much more intensive, but the organizers say it also has more of a personal focus.

“When you’re looking at employment you have to look at it in a more holistic sense in order for it to be successful,” program co-ordinator Janice Henry says.  “We looked at all areas of an individuals life and we worked on those areas, ranging from social skills development to self-esteem building, to employment readiness, to just getting out there and doing the work.”

The results speak to how successful the program is and how determined the graduates where.  Half of them have jobs already, which organizers said was much higher than usual, and all of them completed the program without any financial assistance.

“Our biggest challenge we foresaw was the fact that we didn’t have a training allowance for these individuals,” Henry says.  “That kind of speaks in itself to the dedication of the individuals who participated.”

That dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed in the city either.  Tim Settee, a co-ordinator from the Saskatchewan Police Aboriginal Recruiting Committee, was on hand as a guest speaker, and he says he was pleased with what he saw.

“It’s incredible for the graduates here to see what they’ve done, what they’ve learned and just the fact that they want to better themselves.  It’s great.”

For most of the people in “In the Cocoon,” getting work wasn’t simple.  Some students had past-issues with drugs and alcohol, criminal records, or social anxieties that caused problems.

The staff, which included an elder, councillors and a full-time job coach, was available to help the graduates recognize and deal with these issues, in addition to normal job training.

“They were assessed from the beginning, and then reassessed during the process and at the end to see their personal development and work with them at that,” Henry says.  “I think that more of those types of training initiatives need to happen.”

Henry says she thinks of the program and the jobs that come with it as a stepping-stone.  Most of the graduates are starting out in entry-level retail jobs, but the more ambitious students are already planning for the future.  They plan on saving money so they can further their education.

“It actually was, I think, inspirational for all of us, not only myself but also the participants in the program,” Henry says.

Now that the program is over, Henderson says she’s going to miss everyone, but is eager to get to work.  She’s found a temporary position with the company that employed her during the program’s job placement section, with the option of more work later.

She says she’s proud of what she’s accomplished, and was joined at the ceremony by her friends, her mother and her granddaughter.  For Henderson, having her granddaughter there made it a particularly special occasion.

“To show her that I can accomplish something and she can also, no matter how old you are,” she says.  “You can always still get somewhere.  It’s so good to have her here to enjoy this day with me.”

Organizations: Saskatchewan Police Aboriginal Recruiting Committee

Geographic location: Canada

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