Learning how to manage stress for work and home life

Rocky Support Services Society (RSSS) in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta is a not-for-profit agency that supports adults with disabilities to live and work in their community. The agency provides 24-hour overnight residential supports, assisted independent living, as well as career planning and employment placement supports. RSSS promotes quality of life and participation in a variety of community activities/events.

Michelle Kouwenhoven is a Community Disability Support Practitioner within the organization’s Employment and Supportive Independent Living programs. These programs support clients with employment preparation skills such as resume writing and interviews. RSSS recently signed up for the UP Skills for Work program through ABC Life Literacy Canada to add soft skill training to their program mix.

“We tend to teach soft skills in a casual way during day-to-day support, but UP Skills for Work is a more flexible structured format that allows us to really narrow in on key skills,” says Kouwenhoven.

UP Skills for Work is a free program offered across Canada that helps adult learners develop key employability and life skills through workshops and downloadable workbooks. Topics include Motivation, Attitude, Accountability, Presentation, Time Management, Adaptability, Stress Management, and Confidence. Anyone can sign up to host a workshop.

Soft skills are something that individuals require more assistance with, as there are limited opportunities to enhance these skills. “Collaboration, for example, is a skill often learned by participating in team sports. This population sometimes has limited opportunities that contributes to the absence of these skills. This program is a way to help teach skills that are required,” says Kouwenhoven.

These types of skills are becoming increasingly important to employers. According to a recent survey, almost 80 per cent of employers value soft skills over hard skills and are willing to hire workers without experience related to the job.

Kouwenhoven says the UP Skills for Work training is beneficial because employers know that any potential employee receives training on these key soft skills. RSSS clients are employed by businesses in a variety of roles, such as hospitality, food service, custodian and office administration. So, having skills such as teamwork and presentation is crucial.

Kouwenhoven has facilitated three UP Skills Work workshops, including Stress Management, Confidence and Attitude, and the program plans to run all the available workshops. Stress Management was the first workshop, and it was a big success among clients. The program took the learning one step further and created a stress management toolkit for the learners, which they could carry with them and use whenever they felt stressed.

“The workbook provides a toolkit with ideas on how to manage stress, such as exercising or laughing. Little cards were provided with tips from the toolkit and put on keychains to give to the learners,” says Kouwenhoven.

Kouwenhoven shared many individuals are visual learners, and so creating practical, visually appealing tools that could be referred to at any time was very well received.

“All of our clients are utilizing these keychains,” says Kouwenhoven. “They’re also practicing the confidence pose that was learned in the confidence workshop whenever they are feeling nervous or stressed, so people are really taking away practical tips they learned in these workshops and applying them in real-life situations.”

Part of the success of this program is that it’s hands-on, flexible and provides an opportunity for discussion amongst peers.

“The workbooks give us an opportunity to explore and make it as big as we need it to be. I appreciate that it is flexible.”

To learn more about UP Skills for Work or to sign up to host a free workshop, visit upskillsforwork.ca.