Shannon Szymczakowski is the Sidney WorkBC Centre community liaison coordinator. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Workers in ‘precarious employment’ a problem, Sidney’s WorkBC Centre say they can help

Centre offers skills training, resume help and career advice for people in unstable jobs

With a McMaster University and United Way Toronto survey showing as many as 2,000,000 Canadians are precariously employed, Sidney’s WorkBC Centre is keen to let Peninsula residents know they can help.

Precarious employment means a worker might not be unemployed, but they are working in unstable or unsustainable employment. Examples include irregular hours of work, unreliable renumeration or earnings that cannot support an individual or their family. Other threats to job security include working in an occupation threatened by automation, being overqualified with no prospect of advancement, earning below the Market Basket Measure or having just cause to leave your employment; such as discrimination or harassment.

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A recent national study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that no sector is immune, with one in five Canadian professionals thought to be precariously employed.

In the past, you had to be unemployed or working under 20 hours a week to access help from WorkBC, but these days, the precariously employed can seek help and advice while still in a job.

“We want to get the word out to the general population that if they are facing unemployment or are concerned about their position, we are here to support them,” says Alice Van Blokland, Director of Employment Services at the Sidney WorkBC Centre, which has run employment programs since 1982 and is administered through local non-profit Beacon Community Services. She adds, “Anything an unemployed person can get access to, a precariously employed person can too.”

To support people in this difficult situation, the centre now opens late on Mondays until 7 p.m. and offers a range of help. Resume feedback, interview coaching, career advice, online employment workshops, skills training and job development are all on offer.

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The centre also maintains offices on the Gulf Islands too. A part-time office on Salt Spring and an affiliate on Pender serves communities across the archipelago.

The needs of workers vary and the centre has to assess each client’s needs individually. The working conditions and industries also differ, such as seasonal work on the Gulf Islands compared to retail employment in Sidney.

One of the strengths of the centre is its relationship with Beacon Community Services. As a non-profit, it offers a number of community initiatives separate from the Work BC program. These can dovetail with the needs of vulnerable job seekers or those in a cycle of taking and losing jobs due to a lack of relevant education or unaddressed personal issues. They run a homelessness prevention program, offer counselling and help people negotiate other community resources, such as rehab centres or subsidized housing.

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“If they’re not quite employment-ready, once they are and they’ve addressed those needs, they come back,” explains Shannon Szymczakowski, Sidney WorkBC Centre Community Liaison Coordinator.

The centre is well appointed, with meeting rooms, computer terminals and helpful staff, keen to help any worker concerned about their employment status. For more information call 250-656-0134, or visit beaconcs.ca/services-programs/employment-services-training-supports or workbc.ca.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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