The economic issues stemming from COVID-19 are as well known as the health implications at this point: The massive disruption to service-based businesses, the lack of summer work in those businesses for young people, and the disproportionate effect on women in the workforce. Not for the first time, Federal money is going to Second Chance Employment Counselling to help answer those employment issues.
On Wednesday, Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield announced $448,399 in additional funding to support Second Chance’s Women2Work program. The money will be used to support 40 women who have been “disproportionately affected” by the pandemic-caused recession by giving women a safe space where they can address a lack of skills and experience, and address any other issues that might be making it difficult for them to find work.
“We know that the pandemic has has really disadvantaged women in the workforce more so than men, things like the majority of childcare responsibilities being on women put them at a disadvantage in terms of mobility and work hours and flexibility,” Longfield said during the virtual announcement.
“The goal of this funding is ensuring that women in particular, and young people, have access to the supports they need, so that they can get into jobs experiences right now, and in their future careers,” Longfield added. “Canadian women and youth have to be at the centre of our recovery, and we need to look at helping them rebound today.”
The Women2Work program gives participants information about employment standards and workers rights, there are discussions with financial advisors about financial literacy and personal finances, and there’s also workshops around teamwork, healthy relationships and communication, as well as mock job interviews and other prep work. There’s also access to some very specific training and certification like food handling and first aid.
“Through job loss there’s a loss of confidence around re-entering the labor market, and that plays into mental health issues,” explained Monica Durbin, an employment counsellor at Second Chance. “We’re really offering a lot of support to the young women around building up confidence and also helping them feel supported through the community, through us.”
Eliza Horning is one of the recent graduates of the program, and she said that she took more away from it than just the skill sets she learned.
“I just finished participating through the workshops and I must say while a lot of the content was directly relevant and interesting and helpful, what I felt the most was being appreciated by the staff,” Horning said. “I just felt the care and the attention given to us as individuals and as a whole, and it really made such a difference to feel heard and cared for in terms of the specific goals that we were all trying to achieve together.”
“Our goal is never to be the be all and end all for any one individual, it’s to build the community and it’s to build the bridges to those community supports to use the expertise, the experience the the amazing community services that are out there to build up people individually and their community as as a whole,” added Chris Baginski-Hansen, the executive director of Second Chance.
Recent reports have indicated that Guelph’s unemployment rate has returned to its pre-pandemic status, but the Second Chance staff note that the current employment statistics don’t tell the whole story.
“One of the things we have to remember is that even though we are at pre-pandemic levels in terms of the general unemployment rate, the youth unemployment rate is usually double the general rate,” Baginski-Hansen said. “The other thing is that people are looking for stability in work as well. Particularly women are looking for opportunities that will meet the need for some flexibility in their lives.”
While schools are open now, COVID outbreaks might prompt the emergency need for kids to quarantine for 10 days, which means that a parent needs to be at home with them. This is one of the issues perspective employees are facing, while at the same time there’s an urgency to add people for employers, and the available workforce doesn’t always have the skills that they need.
“We’re looking for those opportunities that are going to provide that flexibility, and we’re we’re dealing with this real big demand from employers to fill to fill jobs,” Baginski-Hansen added. “We still have some unemployed people, and we have to find a match and we have to find how to work together when sometimes the skills don’t match. That’s the big thing that our program does, we work with the employer and we work with the young person just to see if this feels good.”