First graduating group of mature workers celebrate in Masset

  • Mar. 5, 2010 8:00 p.m.

Submitted article–Participants, employers, family and friends of the first graduating class of the Mature Workers Program gathered in Masset February 5 to celebrate an ending and a beginning. Thirteen participants completed the program delivered by Hecate Strait Employment Development Society in January, with the completion of eight weeks of classroom training and a four week job placement. A first, the program took place at the new Hecate Strait Employment Development Society (HSEDS) Haida Gwaii office and training centre in Masset. “We wish to thank the community of Masset and employers in all island communities for the positive response and overwhelming support.,” said HSEDS Executive Director, Kathy Bedard. Participants gained computer skills, certified training and employability skills through classroom instruction and online training. As the name implies, this group brings with it considerable life and work skills. For many, they’re entering a new phase, defining what it means to be an active participant in the employment market in their mature years. With diverse needs, some participants were displaced by the declining resource sector while others found retirement wasn’t what they had expected and were looking to other options. Their solutions were varied, as some were looking to gain certification, while others worked to strengthen business skills. Whatever the goal, this group proved that anyone determined to set a goal and work diligently can achieve their end. An undisputable commonality was the camaraderie of this group. This was an advantage of the program that was cited repeatedly. This solidarity shone through on graduation day and many times during the program when participants proved they were learners and teachers, generously sharing their strengths, knowledge, and support. HSEDS credits the Community Futures Career Development Centre as a key partner. The CDC worked with participants to develop resumes and cover letters and delivered workshops on interview skills and the value of developing a career portfolio. Participants attended from Old Massett, Masset and Port. The new Hecate Strait Training Centre in Masset has already had a direct economic impact to the islands of over $120,000. “The aim is to keep money circulating in the community by supporting local businesses, providing income to participants and staff and through business-to-business services such as facility rental,” said Ms Bedard. The work completed through job placement has added value to local employers and the Islands economy. Misty Isles Economic Development Society (MIEDS) was able to employ several participants. “The opportunity to take advantage of reliable and competent people has been very beneficial and enabled MIEDS to undertaken several projects that would not have otherwise occurred without finding additional funding,’ states MIEDS Executive Director, Travis Glasman. “This program enabled MIEDS to engage competent personnel to complete valuable short term projects that will provide years of benefit to the Islands community. We completed the successful coordination of the Haida Gwaii House during the Olympics in Vancouver, an updated business directory for the Islands, and the first ever Community Investor Profile for the communities of Haida Gwaii.”The Mature Worker Program (MWP) and the Small Business Employee Training (SBET) program being delivered by HSEDS create opportunities for community learning and builds capacity in participants and small businesses. For participant Ellis Edgars, the program instilled a renewed sense of self confidence. “I’m persistent now,’ Edgars said, ‘I don’t sit around and feel sorry for myself. This program made me move forward. It lifted my spirits, confidence and self-worth, and now I am giving back to the community.”Lorette Smillie, who completed her work placement coordinating Haida Gwaii House in Vancouver, valued the certification along with the opportunity to try something new. “I think it was a good thing that I took the program through Hecate Strait (Employment Development Society). It opened me up to learning, and I believe there is always something to learn – you just have to step up to the plate. You can change your whole life,” Ms. Smillie said. An advantage of the program is the computer lab. Each participant has access to a laptop. This helps integrate learning in a way that’s not possible with shared computers.The second intake, which begins in April, will have computers integrated with the curriculum during the nine weeks in the classroom so people will complete the program with a solid understanding and practical use of computers.