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Employment agency uses essential skills & employability training to help learners prepare for work

The Ability Employment Corporation (AEC) is a not-for-profit organization that provides career counselling and job placement services to persons with intellectual disabilities as well as those facing barriers to employment.

Based in Clarenville, Newfoundland, the organization recently learned about Activate Learning, a literacy and essential skills program specifically for the province, that offers free workshops and learning resources in the areas of essential skills, employability skills, health and financial literacy.

Michelle Vey-Compton, Youth Employment Counsellor AEC, was keen to start running workshops after receiving federal funding for a 25-week per session youth employment strategy skills program (YESS). YESS is a three-year program and will help a minimum of 40 young adults learn the necessary employment skills needed to become productive and contributing members of their community.

“[After the funding was approved], I had just three weeks to find the content and curriculum to present to young adults with employment barriers. The Activate Learning program provided me with everything I needed to get started, including numerous workbooks on helpful topics around employability and essential skills,” says Vey-Compton.

Vey-Compton explains that the workbooks resonated well with learners and helped them understand that when they’re in the workplace, they’ll have to build relationships with other people such as coworkers. The activities around teamwork and conflict management helped them to think about why a person might be acting a certain way and what exactly they can do in a similar situation.

Soft skills such as these are increasingly becoming in demand for many jobs. Vey-Compton says that in her experience, many people don’t understand how to speak appropriately to their boss or the importance of showing up on time. Employability training aims to teach these soft skills that are often overlooked in traditional schooling.

In addition to soft skills, essential skills are also important in the workplace.

“Some of these individuals have never had a job before, so the essential skills resources were helpful,” says Vey-Compton. “Many of the students thought that because they knew how to read that these types of activities weren’t necessary, but I explained to them real-life examples of how reading in a workplace might be different from reading a newspaper or a recipe card.”

For example, Vey-Compton explained to them that in the workforce, a new employee might be asked to read a company manual or policy and sign an affidavit saying they understand and agree to the policy. These types of real-life circumstances can have repercussions if employees sign off on something that they didn’t fully understand or weren’t prepared to read and interpret.

After explaining it this way, she says a lot of lightbulbs went off about how important it is to read and understand policies and know what is expected of you in the workplace.

With COVID continuing to wreak havoc on the job market, programs such as these have become even more important. The unemployment rate in Newfoundland and Labrador, as of January 2021, was 14.4% – the highest of all provinces. With many of Vey-Compton’s students having lost jobs or struggling to find work due to COVID, she hopes that programs such as Activate Learning will help students build their skills during this downtime to get the confidence to go back into the workplace.

To learn more about Activate Learning, download free resources or book a workshop, visit abcactivatelearning.ca.