2020 was a tough year in the job market as many people across the globe lost their jobs for various COVID-related reasons. The lack of events and foreign tourism decimated some industries while entirely new careers were created.
To continue equipping job seekers with the tools to find meaningful work in the changing economy Archway employment programs had to get creative as they assisted newcomers, people with disabilities, and seniors.
We caught up with some of the programs to get a snapshot look at their operations over the COVID and how the staff and their clients adjusted.
Employing People in Community (EPIC)
About the Program:
Employing People in the Community (EPIC) empowers individuals with diverse abilities to secure and maintain meaningful and sustainable employment while fostering their independence in their community. They provide extensive, individualized job support and ensure that all employment needs are addressed for both the job seeker and the employer.
Heather O’Brien, the manager of Archway Community Living program shares that, “many of our clients found themselves laid off at the beginning of COVID, leaving them feeling disheartened.”
In March 2020, due to the challenges of meeting in person due to Covid-19 Protocols, staff assisted job seekers in using video conferencing. During a weekly Jobs, Club individuals engage with their peers with employment discussions and interactive activities. These group sessions are regularly attended and assist in keeping everyone feel connected. Some EPIC Alumni, who also found themselves unexpectedly without work, enjoyed being included in our group sessions, although they have since been re-hired.
Job seekers have been encouraged to attend virtual individual meetings and/or outside meetings with their Employment Specialists to work on their resumes, hone their interview skills, and follow up on any job postings which may be of interest. Staff have spent time getting to know each person even better, understanding their preferences regarding alternate types of employment to encourage them to consider new job opportunities.
In February 2021, the EPIC Program was awarded a Work Experience Grant through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction which provided five individuals an opportunity to participate in a 12-week paid work experience program. Their job sites included Cora’s Restaurant, Staples, No Frills, VSSL- Outdoor Utility Tools, and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store. The placements went well and two of the job seekers were able to secure permanent employment.
“For the last year, I have missed playing sports. I did like working for three months for my work experience. I start working there as an employee in September.” Inderpal
As the job market is heating up again, the EPIC team is looking forward to assisting job seekers to secure employment. Some individuals and their families who were cautious due to COVID-19 have recently indicated that they are feeling more comfortable riding the local transit, utilize HandyDART, and venturing into their community to explore employment options.
“Our job seekers really enjoy being part of a worksite team and being able to contribute in meaningful ways. We want people to understand that the hopes, fears, goals, and wishes of our participants are the same as every person seeking employment,” said Heather.
Staff and clients are looking forward to meeting in person for weekly Job Club meetings and being able to spend time with each other for quarterly special events, such as a dinner and movie night, and their Christmas Party.
While some businesses have been cautious about the number of employees on-site and have been slower to commit to hiring new staff due to changing Covid-19 restrictions, Heather is optimistic that they will embrace the benefits of an inclusive workplace.
“It is our goal to recruit inclusive employers who are interested in hiring skilled individuals, who happen to have a diverse ability. Our job seekers are dependable, reliable, and motivated. In addition, they have access to a support person, if needed, to assist them to learn specific job duties. We value the relationships we build with our community businesses and are confident that the services we provide will be beneficial for many, once given the opportunity to enhance their team.”
EPIC participant Inderpal
“Our job seekers really enjoy being part of a worksite team and being able to contribute in meaningful ways. We want people to understand that the hopes, fears, goals, and wishes of our participants are the same as every person seeking employment.”
Career Paths for Skilled Immigrants (CPSI)
About the Program:
The Career Paths for Skilled Immigrants (CPSI) program supports newcomers in finding meaningful employment related to the experience and education they bring from their previous country. Clients get personalized career development guidance and support in navigating the Canadian labour market.
New clients complete a career assessment which allows them to identify their short-term and long-term career goals as well as recognize potential barriers to their goal employment. Then a career consultant will work with them on developing an individualized action plan.
This includes job search actions and professional skill enhancements to meet the requirements of the industry or sector they are seeking to enter in Canada. Participants also have access to financial support for their skill upgrades, credential evaluations, exams, and certifications.
The program provides both employment skill workshops and one-on-one career coachings, such as labour market information, job search strategy, job post analysis, resume enhancement, mock interviews, and more. The program also organizes industry networking events that help clients to connect with industry experts and employers. Furthermore, the program explores job leads, practicum, and mentorship opportunities for clients.
“It takes time to break into the professional fields when you lack local professional network and experience,” explains Mei Chen, the program coordinator. “Some organizations can be hesitant to hire new immigrants, but many start to realize the breadth of skills and experience available in this unique talent pool with very highly motivated, capable and hardworking professionals.”
“Skilled immigrants bring valuable experience to Canada and if their expertise and experience can be utilized, it’s a win for everyone.”
In 2020, the number of new permanent residents was 47% lower than in 2019 due to shutdowns, lack of flights, and paperwork delays. Despite the lower immigration levels, the CPSI program stayed busy and started offering virtual workshops and individual meetings to keep everyone safe.
Now with the lifting of COVID restrictions, the program has started offering one-on-one in-person appointments while providing group services such as workshops and networking events online.
“Some organizations can be hesitant to hire new immigrants, but many start to realize the breadth of skills and experience available in this unique talent pool with very highly motivated, capable and hardworking professionals.”
Past CPSI participant Mansi found work as a graphic designer
CPSI Client Stories
“I came to Canada last year, full of hopes that I will continue my successful teaching career here. However, it wasn’t long before I realized I will have to start from zero and I had no idea how to do that. I felt lost and my self-confidence dwindled.
Desperate, I started searching online for agencies that would guide me through the process. That is until I came across Archway. I registered with them but didn’t expect much help mainly because of the impression I had of employment agencies back home. However, I was completely taken aback when the Career Paths team followed up with my application rather enthusiastically and started an individualized action plan that was set in motion immediately.
Archway team took me by the hand and walked me through every step of the job search process, from upgrading qualifications to landing a job. I couldn’t have asked for more. I will forever be grateful to the Career Paths team. Their dedication and sincerity are actually very inspiring.”
- Sana, who has been working at Archway as ELL Teacher since July 2021.
“Archway became my first friend in Canada when I immigrated in November 2020. I must confess that I had some really tough and frustrating times looking for a job. I am greatly thankful to Mei, Jessie, and Archway, in general, to help me with my banking certification. Jessie was super quick in terms of getting the certification tuition reimbursed in record time which helped in reducing my stress even more. Because of this certification, Mei literally redesigned my resume and cover letter!
I started getting calls for an interview. Apart from all the sessions and job fairs that you both helped me attend, I am deeply touched by the individual sessions for preparing me for interviews.
I am joining CIBC bank (my first job in Canada) on June 14th and I want to start the journey by thanking Mary, Jessie, and Mei for being my support all this while and being my first friends in Canada. This wouldn’t have been possible without your support and efforts.
- Sachan, who has been working at CIBC as Financial Service Representative since June 2021.
Sana teaching a class
Career Paths client Sachan
Immigrant Job Shop
About the Program:
The Immigrant Job Shop (IJS) program began in April 2021 to help immigrants gain workplace skills for roles in the customer service or retail industry. Clients receive four weeks of English classes, life skills training with a focus on communication in the workforce, employment skills as well as five University of the Fraser Valley classes. Participants also receive four weeks of on-the-job training through practicum placements.
“Our course gives clients the confidence to apply for jobs, interview well, and ultimately succeed in their career,” said program supervisor, Ranni Tolman. “With courses related to emergency first aid, digital tools, and office applications, their resumes become more attractive to potential employers.”
IJS was run in small groups to stay within COVID guidelines. Students alternated between in-person workshops with UFV instructors and virtual employment workshops online. To ensure the program was accessible to those without access to technology, the team secured laptops for students and helped with digital literacy skills as needed.
Participants in the first cohort were given practicum placements at a local hotel, seniors facility, retail store, and in the accounting department of a manufacturer. After completing their practicum placements in August 2021, all four participants were hired permanently.
“I had the best experience in my course… all faculties are very supportive, inspiring, and knowledgeable. Archway is the best place to meet everyone’s needs.”
-Ramanveer (IJS Program Client)
“Joining the IJS Program was one of my best decisions. The IJS team is awesome. They are dedicated, full of knowledge, helpful, passionate people. I enjoyed sharing and learning from them. Since I joined this program, I feel more confident, happier, more skilled also. Thank you, Archway Community Services, and IJS”
– Ioana ( IJS Program Client)
IJS class in session