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Our Place offers ‘next steps’ to employment

New skills-building program launches to help people facing barriers find work
Rick Murray has been taking courses with “Next Steps” to help learn employment skills after a series of motorcycle accidents changed his physical working abilities. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

People struggling to get back into the work force now have a new resource to turn to.

After piloting the program for eight months, Our Place Society officially opened its newest outreach facility this week: Next Steps to Employment at 1627 Quadra St.

Its aim is to help people with multiple employment barriers such as lack of education, training or experience; mental health issues, or learning or physical disabilities, to get back on track to finding a job.

“We developed a program that was very comprehensive and provides pre-employment skills, such as basic things like hygiene and showing up to work on time, through to employability skills,” said Our Place executive director Don Evans. “We offer job training in different fields and then do job matching and job placement, and then job support.”

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Next Steps is trying to address the insecurity people have felt in returning to work and the lack of support they experienced, Evans said. The program is also using a unique model that was successful in Manitoba to help people learn.

“The program was designed for people who lack education and didn’t do well in traditional school, so we’re using a methodology … that combines the five senses,” Evans said. “If you absorb information in in different ways, you can really learn.”

Participants will work in groups of 10 to 12 for three-month cohorts focusing on different skills. So far, one cohort has been completed, with a second one just wrapping up.

Rick Murray is participating in the second cohort and said he’s learned a lot from the program, despite having owned his own Harley Davidson business in Nanaimo.

“I had my own business for 25 years and thought I knew everything, but I guess I don’t,” he said. “I’ve had a number of injuries, motorcycle accidents and such, so my physical career is over. So this has been a real breath of fresh air. The people, the facilitators, the special volunteers are just exemplary.”

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As this stage of the program wraps up, Murray said he’s walking away with a lot.

“We’ve just been re-establishing life skills such as effective communication, body language, eye contact, teamwork. We do a number of activities so we have to work as a group together, and it starts off difficult. Then we narrow it down with input from everyone in the team and we nail it.”

After the cohort is finished, Murray is set up to work with car parts and mechanics, something right up his alley.

The program allows people to always learn, including the volunteers and instructors, he added, noting that there’s something there for everyone.

“Everyone can gain something from this. It’s a lot of trust and respect and builds confidence in people, so I would highly recommend it.”