Two anniversaries were celebrated by Beacon Community Services in Sidney on Dec. 6 — 30 years of providing employment services in the community, and one year into a so-far successful partnership with the province.
At an open house event at the BCS office next to Sidney town hall, chief executive officer Isobel Mackenzie said the organization’s employment services program began in 1982. It was created to offer residents of Sidney and the Peninsula resources to help in their job search.
Today, BCS is more than one year into a contract with the provincial ministry of social development’s new employment program, which seeks to bring more resources under one roof.
BCS’ Third Street office in Sidney is now a WorkBC Employment Service Centre as well, helping people in employment insurance and/or income assistance find jobs.
“We serve a dual purpose,” said Donna Lafranchise, director of employment services at BCS. “We have offered employment services here since 1982 and last April we opened the doors officially to WorkBC.”
She said the program is seeing results for its clients, some of whom have new jobs and others bolstered in their confidence thanks to workshops on offer and the support of the case workers.
Brentwood Bay resident Monika Burrell has been living in the area only a short time, and turned to BCS for their job search resources and as an entry point to make local connections.
“I moved to the area just around Labour Day,” she said. “I went to a resumé workshop and hidden job workshop and the people were informed, friendly and helpful.”
As an artist, Burrell is looking for local contract opportunities and looked to BCS resources as a way to get into the community and create contacts.
“I would say I have been successful,” she continued. “I have had some positive leads and I’ve been invited to fill some gaps in service.”
Burrell is hoping to develop her own business, contracting her skills and talent to arts endeavours. One way of reaching out into the community, she notes, was revealed in the BCS’s hidden jobs market workshop.
It’s designed to help prospective employees find work that might not be readily advertised.
“I learned about informational interviews,” she explained, using the example of meeting briefly with a company’s CEO to learn more about their company.
What this does, she said, is create that first point of contact, followed up with a well-placed resumé, ready for when and if a job opens up.
Burrell’s further challenge as she looks to establish her own business, is pairing what she loves to do with the day-to-day work on running a business.
“I think every artist finds their own pathway to be able to do what they do, to pay the rent.”
Jeanine Cooper of the Tsartlip First Nation has been coming to BCS to upgrade her skills and her resumé. While she still hasn’t yet landed a job, she remains positive — thanks in part to the support of her case worker and the other staff at BCS.
“Life does bring big changes and I had been working all of my life, up until I decided that I had to make a change,” she said.
She said she might be what is considered a ‘mature worker’ and has found finding that new job somewhat elusive.
But that has not dampened her spirit.
“Beacon has helped me prepare and they’ve been very supportive when I’ve been down,” she explained. “It has been uplifting, getting to know the people here, going through their services and meeting other people in the system.”
The job hunt is a roller coaster ride, she continued. There will be highs and lows during the job search — and she encourages people in the same boat to take advantage of BCS, as that’s why they are are here in the community.
Cooper said she has a couple of diplomas, but needed to update her resumé. She went through a workshop, after which she developed a skills-based resumé, rather than a traditional chronological one.
“I found that I have a lot of skills that I didn’t know I had,” she said.
Cooper added she found more resources at BCS to boost her interview skills as well, and said she is confident she can wow a prospective employer within the first 20 seconds of a job interview.
What Cooper has enjoyed the most at BCS, is the support and encouragement of her case worker and other people at the centre.
“There’s no place like this around here,” she said. “And I will keep trying to find a job.”
Cooper encourages people to check out the services and resources at BCS and hopes her story inspired more people to do just that.
It’s stories like these that are rewarding to BCS employees. One of their clients even stood in front of the open house crowd, telling his story of how he was able to find work and the positive experience he had there.
That’s part of the goal behind BCS’s five-year contract with the province to provide a one-stop resource centre for job hunters.
“We want to stabilize the program,” said Lafranchise, “and ensure all of the services are being delivered to people in a way that works for them, so they know what’s available to them here.”
Provincial ministry representatives congratulated BCS on their success with WorkBC. BCS is one of some 85 centres in B.C. providing similar services.
To learn more about the employment services at Beacon Community Services — as well as their children and families resources — visit www.beaconcs.ca or call 250-656-0134.