We know that the Federal Liberals have not had the greatest of luck in areas involving youth and jobs this year, but maybe that luck is changing locally. Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield announced $1.4 million in new multiyear funding for Second Chance Employment Consulting Friday, and it will make a very real difference in the lives of the service’s clients according to Second Chance’s executive director Chris Baginski-Hansen.
“The uncertainty that many Canadians feel in these unprecedented times can be overwhelming, but in Canada, and especially here in Guelph, we look out for each other,” said Longfield in a virtual announcement Friday morning. “We’re really committed to supporting young Canadians during the pandemic as the Canadian government continues to build back better.”
Second Chance is getting a cut of nearly $190 million in new funding under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS), which is meant to create 9,500 new work opportunities for youth across Canada. The Government of Canada has invested nearly half-a-billion dollars in YESS since April, which has supported more than 270 different projects across the country.
Locally, the $1.4 million announced Friday will fund the Ways2Work project. That money will place 125 young people in Guelph who face barriers to employment because of their race, a mental health issue, or a visible disability, and kick start their careers with a variety of skills training.
“Everybody’s getting first aid, everybody’s getting safe food handling, everybody’s getting Smart Serve, and everybody’s learning how to work safely, and working safely is quite different now than it was a year ago,” said Baginski-Hansen.
“This project has really been a huge step in the right direction because we got a bunch of funding for things outside of the workshop pay and the placement fee,” added Charlotte Butler, a job developer at Second Chance.
Specifically, that means making sure people are not letting the reasons why they need work become reasons why they can’t get work. “We want to make sure that food insecurity is not stopping people from going to work, and we want to make sure people have bus passes,” explained Baginski-Hansen.
“We’re really offering a better, more well-rounded program these days by having the opportunity to meet with people one-on-one, and talk about their job goals, or things that are causing them stress, or maybe a goal we can help them work towards,” said Butler.
One of the young people that Second Chance has assisted said that before getting into Ways2Work, she was another statistic. Justice explained that she came from a low income family, was a high school dropout, and struggled with both addiction and mental health, but thanks to Second Chance she was able to complete her education, get job skills, and overcome her challenges in an environment where she didn’t feel like she stuck out.
“It’s really non-judgmental, and I find that a lot of the workshops give us such a massive variety of resources that it really doesn’t matter what your issue is, you’re going to get a resource for you without even having to ask for it,” Justice said. “I am a huge, huge advocate for programs like these; they have quite literally saved my life.”
Baginski-Hansen explained that helping Second Chance clients is a balancing act because they have to get young people trained for jobs, but they also have to connect people to the jobs available in the community. “We are able to get those youth job placements, and the employers and the businesses are really supportive and are doing some great things,” she said. “We have to make sure that we’re making the right connections.”
And making the right connection will be a bit easier now that Second Chance has three years of guaranteed funding, and that will allow Baginski-Hansen and her staff to do what they do best. “It’s huge not to have to spend your days chasing money,” she said. “We can concentrate on delivering the best possible program we can, and we’ve got three years to make adaptations as we need them, and to evaluate what’s working, and what’s not, in a meaningful way.”
Photo Credit: Longfield making an announcement at Second Chance employment services in Summer 2019.