NEW GLASGOW – It was early 2013 and Debbie Feltmate found herself between jobs and at a dead end.
“I wasn't in a good place at that time,” the New Glasgow native said. “But things turned around when I was referred to the Starting Point program.”
Now, after participating in the program from March to June 2013, Feltmate is holding down a full time job with Pictou County Home Health Care.
“I learned so much,” she said. “Not just skills, but about myself.”
Starting point, a 12-week employability program for women, will soon begin on Sept. 8, and run until Nov. 28. Program coordinators, Candace Slater MacDonnell and Jane Fraser, believe this is a prime opportunity for women in Pictou County to discover various employment and educational opportunities.
They want more women to have the positive learning experiences that Feltmate had while in the program.
“It’s an opportunity for local women if they’re unemployed, underemployed, on EI or social assistance, home raising kids or recently lost a job,” said MacDonnell. “It’s an opportunity to come to a safe environment with women and explore what they want to do to gain independence.”
Funded by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and overseen by the Pictou County Women’s Centre, the program began in 2002.
“It’s a 12-week course where 12 women focus just on themselves; their strengths, challenges and what’s happening on the inside,” said Fraser.
The program runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 311 MacDonald Street in New Glasgow.
The Starting Point program is designed to foster women’s economic independence and is open to any woman who is considering entering/re-entering the workplace or exploring career/education options.
MacDonnell estimates that around 430 women have completed the program. As a result, there are many graduates currently employed or being re-educated.
Components for study include computer skills, literacy, employability training and personal development. MacDonnell noted that the program is designed for women who experience barriers to employment.
“The greatest barrier to a woman applying is often herself because of confidence issues or otherwise,” she said.
Women leave the program with several practical certifications, such as first aid, CPR, food safety, WHIMS, occupational health and safety and customer service courses. For those with children or residing a great distance outside New Glasgow, subsidies for childcare and transportation will be made available.
Bottom line, according to Fraser is that it’s worth it.
“We get a lot of positive feedback, with women talking about the confidence they’ve gained but didn’t have before,” she said.
Feltmate agrees, saying enrolling in the program was the best thing she ever did.
“It opened a lot of doors for me,” she said. “I got a job, can communicate better and learned a lot about myself. If you’re thinking of enrolling in the program, be prepared because it's life changing.”
Any women in the county who have not taken this program are invited to call and leave a message for Candace or Jane at the Pictou County Women’s Centre at 902-755-4647 or at 902-695-3444 after Aug. 18 for an interview of for further information.
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn