UPDATED: Skills Link program aims to help youth into jobs

Amanda Jess
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NEW GLASGOW – Rebecca Neville had looked everywhere for a job.

Skills Link

While living in Dartmouth, she was hitting walls. Each time she applied, she found either a position was already filled, or that she couldn’t meet the skills requirement for available jobs.

Her search led to New Glasgow and into the Skills Link program at Summer Street Industries.

“They spent a lot of time with me, and eventually, I started to grow. I started to learn from them, and we all just started to grow and learn together.”

A funding announcement from Central Nova Member of Parliament Peter MacKay at Summer Street Industries on Tuesday stands to benefit more youth facing similar obstacles.

MacKay told 10 Skills Link students and other members of the community that the federal government is investing almost $200,000 in the local branch of the government-funded program. 

“This is really a program that brings about benefits in all directions. Those new employers will be given the benefit of the enthusiasm and inspiration I know these young folks will bring to the job. So for the youth, they will develop on a personal level, but really, our entire community benefits from this experience as well. We all benefit from increased participation of members of our community,” MacKay said.

The barriers youth in the program are up against can include mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, learning disabilities, and a lack of experience, which MacKay identified as a catch-22; youth can’t find jobs to give them experience because they don’t have experience to land employment.

“That cycle is something that’s very discouraging,” he said. 

Youth in the government-funded program spend 14 weeks in the classroom, building life and job skills such as budgeting, eating healthy on a dime, and how to present themselves, while also receiving training in CPR and WHIMS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), before entering a work placement in the community.

19-year-old Neville has been here for almost a year, and is moving on to her work placement – 24 weeks as the receptionist at Summer Street Industries.

Some of the other placements this year and in the past have included Michelin, Zelda’s Flower Studio, Giant Tiger, and Walmart.

Julie Dignan, outreach co-ordinator for Summer Street, said they try to match students where their interests are, increasing their chances of success.

The program itself boasts an 82 per cent success rate since it started at Summer Street in 2009. Out of 40 graduates, 32 are in full or part-time employment, while four have gone back to school.

“I get to see the participants’ journey,” she said, speaking about the nervousness of their first interview to where they are by the end.

For Neville, she has seen an increase in confidence in herself, as well as a decrease in her anxiety. 

She said she never would’ve been able to speak to a crowd before, much less function in her job placement.

Kindness and forgiveness of those involved with the program has helped to build her up, she said.

 

Amanda.jess@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda

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