Skills Training Results in Directed Education / Employment (STRIDE) is one of Archway’s newest programs and it’s had an excellent and eventful first year thanks to the dedication of supervisor, Frank Amadasun, and his team.
Starting a new initiative is never simple, even when it’s something as necessary as STRIDE, which helps local people over 55 gain employability skills and find meaningful, sustainable work. Experiencing a global pandemic on top of it all is something few could truly prepare for or predict.
Frank has a wealth of experience in recruitment and employment services. Prior to STRIDE he worked in talent recruitment for a large company in Alberta, traveling globally to build their workforce. He was also a facilitator in a previous Archway employment program. This experience was crucial as he rose to the challenge of developing STRIDE and adapting during COVID-19.
Of course, there are always hurdles to jump over when starting anything new; coordinating logistics and staffing the department are expected, but not easy.
Once practicalities were addressed it was a matter of connecting with potential clients, but Frank knew they were out there.
According to WorkBC, mature workers in British Columbia sometimes lack technical skills, appropriate training opportunities and familiarity with current hiring practices. As a result, Statistics Canada has noted 58% of people 55 years and older feel their chances of finding sustainable employment are “not very good,” a sentiment expressed by less than half of jobseekers aged 20 to 34.
Knowing that there are people who need your services and connecting with them can be two separate matters, but with the support of the Archway Marketing and Communications department, word was soon circulating about STRIDE. “The more marketing one can do, the more aware people become; that awareness generates interest and interest drives curiosity.” offered Frank. “It is this curiosity that brings clients to our doors because they want to know more about the services we provide.”
And come to STRIDE’s doors they have. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program had supported 45 clients in various ways. “10 clients have secured gainful employment in various sectors, nine have received certification in short term occupational training, and two have obtained occupational skills training,” Frank reported.
To qualify for the program, participants must be unemployed or precariously employed, which means that they do not meet the typical definition of the unemployed. They may be working in unstable or unsustainable environment, earning a total employment income that is below the market basket measures, or in an occupation that is likely to be replaced by technology or automation in the near future.
Over 50% of unemployed people over 55 went to WorkBC offices to seek help in 2018. While those offices are helpful, the 55+ group was left in a bubble without intentional efforts to address their unique needs. As the need was recognized, the STRIDE program was created. STRIDE services are client-centred, and their curriculum supports individualized training.
STRIDE provides valuable skills enhancement through employability, essential skills and employment readiness workshops; short-term occupational certification and unpaid work experience leading to sustainable employment.
In addition to serving their first clients in their first year, they have built community partnerships with employers and training institutions in order to leverage resources and expertise and harnessed best practices that will serve participants for years to come.
Participants in STRIDE benefit from transportation supports to travel to and from workshops and job interviews. The program also provides childcare supports to participants who may be responsible for caring for young children so they can attend workshops.
As a direct employer incentive, they offer wage subsidies to encourage employers to give STRIDE participants opportunities to prove themselves for a period of four weeks. When a participant secures employment, STRIDE continues to provide post-employment supports to ensure nothing is left to chance.
They also facilitate two weeks of unpaid work experience for the benefit of participants who want to go into new careers or have limited experience. This measure affords clients the opportunity to assess the desirability of the job and gives the employer a chance to assess whether the participant will be a good fit. Best of all, STRIDE’s services are free to program participants.
COVID-19 hasn’t slowed Frank and his teammates, Lea and Valerie down, either. While participation has decreased somewhat and opportunities to coordinate training and other opportunities for participants have become more challenging, they continue serving those in need in a hybrid approach. STRIDE quickly transitioned to an entirely online platform for those comfortable with computers, while maintaining physically distant in-person sessions for people with barriers to accessing online learning.
Despite all the obstacles they may face, people have continued to turn out for STRIDE sessions, proof of their dedication and resilience. Early client successes have included opportunities to expand their networks and obtain qualifications that make them an asset to future employers.
One highly-qualified client simply needed orthotics so she could stay on her feet in the workplace, but they were out of her budget due to unemployment. Once the program helped her obtain them, she was quickly able to secure a job as a Client Solutions Advisor for a major Canadian bank. She is reportedly having the time of her life! About her decision to participate in STRIDE she shared, “you have everything to gain. What you learn about yourself will be the most valuable.”
When asked what is particularly encouraging about the program, Frank said;
“STRIDE provides a good opportunity for unemployed older workers. It is a place of refuge for overwhelmed older workers because it is specifically designed for them.
Some participants have told us that the STRIDE program means more than providing employment supports and skills acquisition training. They say they enjoy knowing they are not alone, which can be a trigger for various negative health conditions in older people.
I look forward to more successes for our program participants. We will continue to restore dignity and hope to the growing demographic of unemployed or underemployed people 55+ in the Fraser Valley because there is so much more they can do. We find it particularly encouraging to see their glowing smiles when a participant gets employed to do his or her dream job.”
“We find it particularly encouraging to see their glowing smiles when a participant gets employed to do his or her dream job.”