It is hoped that 2021 will be a year to celebrate many things, including the ever-nearing end of the COVID-19 pandemic and our children finally back to regular in-class learning.
For the Avon Maitland District School Board, it is also a time to celebrate 20 years of managing the Centres for Employment and Learning, a much-needed and well-used service provider for the residents of Huron and Perth Counties.
In September of 2001, the Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) hoped to make it easier for members of our community to achieve their learning and employment goals. To do this, they brought together under one roof a variety of services which had previously been delivered by a variety of providers and organizations. These services included Adult Education, Literacy Services, English as a Second Language, and Employment Services. The marriage of all these services meant that residents of our community now had only one stop in their quests for better employment and learning opportunities.
Five Huron County sites (Wingham, Goderich, Clinton, Seaforth, and Exeter) were created to house the Centres for Employment and Learning (CELs), in the hopes of making the programs accessible to all residents. (In Perth County, the school board continued to operate learning programs in Listowel and Stratford, but employmentfocused programs were still delivered by other organizations.)
Since 2001, the CELs have helped many residents in their employment and learning needs. Some of the programs they offer are outlined below.
Services for Learners
The CELs offer free learning programs in both Perth and Huron Counties. These include English as a Second Language classes, skills upgrading programs, and high-school credit and GED preparation programs.
The English as Second Language classes are made up of new refugees and
immigrants to Canada, as well as non-English speaking residents who may have lived in Canada for many years. Classes range from beginner to intermediate and are a great way for non-English speakers to meet one another and to develop the confidence to really get involved in their new communities.
The Centres also offer a variety of learning programs. Learners can upgrade their skills with either in person or online programming. With help from Literacy Practitioners, learners can work at their own pace to improve reading, writing, math, computer/internet and workplace skills. They can also prepare to write the GED or get ready for high school credits. The LearningHUB (www.learninghub.ca) is a free online portal that offers training in many topics, including Customer Service Essentials, beginner and intermediate Microsoft Office programs, and trades math upgrading to name only a small fraction of what’s available.
Huron and Perth counties also offer adult education and high school credit courses, including co-op credits. This is for people who either need their high school diplomas or who wish to upgrade their courses to gain admission to college or university programs.
Services for Job Seekers
The CELs in Huron County offer a wide range of free Employment Ontario programs.
Who has used these services over the past 20 years? People laid off from work due to labour market change, workers (from business owners and managers to minimum wage earners) unhappy with their careers and looking for change, new immigrants just starting out in Ontario’s job market, people who’ve been fired or quit their jobs for various reasons, retired persons just looking for something to do to keep busy, people who haven’t worked for many years due to disability, injury, addiction, child care duties, or any other reason… In short, anyone.
What are these services? Free assistance in creating targeted resumes and cover
letters, assistance with online applications for people not able to use or access
computers, employment counselling which can include career decision making and onthe-job advice, interview preparation and practice, connecting with employers on clients’ behalf, arranging for training or skills upgrading, and even offering some funding to assist with the job search process. All services are offered with compassion, without judgement, personalized to the client’s needs, and are 100% confidential. Some clients need only a small bit of assistance, and others work with us for months or even years.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to job search and the flexibility built into these fantastic services allows the CELs to offer help to everyone.
Services for Employers
The CELs of Huron County assist not only job seekers, but also employers. One of the most popular programs offered to employers is the Job Matching Placement & Incentive (JMPI) program. The program offers employers up to $6000 as a wage incentive when they hire a new staff member who is registered with one of the CELs. There is also an Apprenticeship Signing Bonus which offers an employer another $2000 if they register their new staff member as an apprentice. This money is normally used to offset wages but can be applied to training programs as well. The discretion is up to the employer.
The idea of this program is to recognize the financial burden that employers take on when they hire new staff, particularly staff who may be facing barriers (such as language ability, mental health, or skills gap).
Another popular program for employers delivered through the CELs is the Canada Ontario Job Grant (COJG). Funded both federally and through Employment Ontario, this program offers up to $10,000 for eligible training for EACH existing employee and up to $15,000 for EACH previously unemployed new-hire. The purpose of this funding is to create a skilled workforce for Ontario, which benefits everybody. There is a wide range of eligible training but some of the more popular courses include AZ licencing, leadership skills, computer skills, gas fitting licencing, and fitness training certifications.
Other free services for employers include creating job postings, collecting resumes, and even giving advice on wages, interview techniques, training and translating referrals, and health & safety information.
The year 2020 (and the first half of 2021) was a difficult one for learners, job seekers and employers, but things have been looking up as we move into fall. Since the creation of the Centres for Employment and Learning 20 years ago, staff have been both challenged and incredibly rewarded by helping those in our community. It is the hope of the Centres for Employment and Learning of the Avon Maitland District School Board that everyone in our community continues to be able to achieve their learning and employment goals. For more nformation visit www.thecentreforemploymentandlearning.ca and learn how the Centre for Employment and Learning can assist you.