Government “WorkBC” plan to grant job seekers greater access to employment services takes effect April 2
By Noa Glouberman
In 2011, after two-and-a-half years of provincewide consultations, research and data analysis, the Ministry of Social Development announced a new employment program for British Columbia. Its goal: to grant all job seekers greater access to a more flexible menu of employment services, ensuring clients are supported in finding work as quickly as possible – regardless of where they live.
One way the government set about achieving this was to identify various proponents to deliver four provincially funded employment programs and six programs funded under the Canada-BC Labour Market Development Agreement (learn what these are by visiting www.labourmarketservices.gov.bc.ca) through 85 new “storefront” WorkBC Employment Services Centres, which are scheduled to open on April 2 throughout the province.
“Think of the new WorkBC Employment Services Centres as one-stop shops for certain employment services,” explained Shameemah Kalaichelvan, a former Job Options BC program facilitator at the Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS) Society in White Rock.
“The new model has integrated 10 ‘legacy’ programs into one,” she added. “Before, clients had to go to different agencies to access these different employment programs and services; now they can come to one place to have all their needs met. It makes everything easier and more organized.”
According to the WorkBC website (www.workbc.ca), each employment services centre will offer job-search resources, personal employment planning and workshops and training, as well as specialized services. Trained staff will be available to work with job seekers to determine the services and supports that will help them find success in their job search.
Additionally, every WorkBC Employment Services Centre has resources and tools available to support clients in their job search, including computer workstations, public telephones, a fax machine and photocopy services.
“It is very much a one-stop-shop system,” agreed Family Services of Greater Vancouver (FSGV) CEO Caroline Bonesky, adding that, before these changes took place, her agency was contracted to provide employment services through two Vancouver locations: one on East Broadway Avenue west of Commercial Drive and another on Davie Street near Burrard. As of April 2, FSGV will only be operating the downtown location as a WorkBC Employment Centre.
“Broadway and Commercial will be closing,” Bonesky confirmed.
PICS, on the other hand, partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of South Coast BC – one of the successful contractors identified by the government last October – to open a new WorkBC Employment Services Centre in Delta, where Kalaichelvan has been placed as a case manager. (Job Options BC, which is not one of the 10 “legacy” employment programs, is still available through PICS and, as of press time, the agency was looking to fill Kalaichelvan’s old position.)
“This new system is much more flexible,” Kalaichelvan said. “Say a client originally comes to see us in Delta and then ends up moving to another location, somewhere else in the Lower Mainland or the province – he won’t have to tell his story all over again. All of the [WorkBC Employment Services Centres] will be connected and have access to his file, so he can just visit the centre closest to him and staff there will be able to help.”
Another goal of the new employment program is to ensure effective delivery to specialized populations, including immigrants, youth, aboriginal people, Francophones, persons with disabilities, survivors of violence, persons with multiple barriers and people living in rural and remote areas.
According to a government press release, “No unemployed British Columbian will be left behind because the new service providers must ensure that everyone has access to the same services, regardless of where they live in the province.”
As such, in addition to the 85 storefront locations mentioned above, another 114 satellite offices are being opened, where clients will also be able to access provincial employment services. Many locations will also use mobile services and outreach for specialized populations or those living in remote areas.
While Bonesky believes that, from a client perspective, the changes are for the better and that most existing clients’ services will not be interrupted, she says that “non-mainstream clients” – members of some of the specialized populations that the government hopes to help through its new model – may experience some disruption as they “will need to find their way to the new service centres.”
Once they do, however, she is optimistic that they will benefit from the changes that are being made. “There is lots of work being done to ensure all client transfers are successful as we go through this transition.”
The Ministry of Social Development will set up an expert advisory panel to monitor how the new model works for British Columbians, as well as a panel of specialized experts to examine how the model is working for clients with specialized needs, such as those with disabilities or clients with multiple barriers to employment.
The province has committed to invest $341.2 million in employment services for 2011-12. The new employment centres support the government’s Families First commitment and BC Jobs Plan, which will strengthen the economy, creating and protecting jobs for British Columbians.
For more information about the new WorkBC Employment Services Centres, visit www.workbc.ca/workbccentres/welcome.htm.