By Ian Croft
Eight local youths are more than halfway through their nine week at a new placement job thanks to the Taber Youth Employment Program.
This federally-funded program is part of the Taber and District Community Adult Learning Association. The program is aimed to help youths, people that are ages 15-30, overcome barriers to employment and enter the workforce here within Taber. The program lasts for a total of sixteen weeks with the first seven weeks in class where the youths attend classes in the Youth Employment Program building downtown. These classes cover a variety of topics all intended to help improve the youth’s work ability skills. The skills include how to use Microsoft Office programs and other valuable computer skills as well as skills like how to budget and having better time management.
Alongside this the program also has the youths become certified in the basics of Alberta’s food and health safety standards and being trained in First Aid Level C/AED through St. John’s Ambulance. The classes are not the only thing that the program uses to help build the youth’s work skills. Throughout those first seven weeks the Taber Youth Employment Program brings in several speakers to discuss a variety of topics ranging from options for what youths could do to pursue higher levels of education such as entering the trades, college, university or joining the Canadian military, along side presentations designed to help aid the youths to succeed within and outside the work space. These presentations discuss renting and the rights that the tenant and landlord has, how to deal with difficult people within the work space, and different methods of learning based off of your personality type.
“YEP taught me a lot of important skills for the real world, many of which should have been taught in schools but aren’t, such as resume building and proper presentation skills. I’m much better equipped for the world now than I was after graduating,” stated Elizabeth Sinclair-Feist, one of the youths who just recently completed the seven week in class portion as part of the Youth Employment Program’s most recent intake.
After those seven weeks in class, the next nine weeks of the Taber Youth Employment Program has the youths enter the job placement portion of the program. This involves the youths going to work at one of the many businesses here in Taber. For the last intake two-thirds of the youths received permanent positions at their job placements and, for the last three years of the program 74 per cent of the youths have either received employment or have gone to attend a post secondary institution.
Despite the program once again having the youths meet up in the same location it has made some adjustments to better handle the ever present challenges that COVID-19 presents. Previously the program was set up to have all of the youths sitting close to each other around one table. Now each student has their own individual desks and workspace each six feet apart from each other with their own individual bottle of hand sanitizer.
Each youth is required to sign in at the beginning of each day stating if they have any noticeable symptoms as well as having their temperature be recorded. If any notable symptoms do arise the youth is required to stay at home and get tested for
COVID-19. Thankfully they are still able to join the classes via video calling programs such as Zoom. If the test comes back negative the youth is able to rejoin the class in person. However, if the test is positive everybody within the program is required to be tested as the program moves to a fully digital format.
The two people in charge of this program are Stephen Bore and Kirsti Forsyth. Forsyth is the career coach which involves her spending the first seven weeks talking to local businesses. These conversations with local businesses were to see if they were interested in working with the program and if the job would be a suitable location for the youth’s skills and interests. Bore is the program coordinator which puts him in charge of organizing the schedule and class list for the first seven weeks as well as booking all of the speakers. Alongside Forsyth he ensures the delivery of all of the material that the program offers to the youths.
During the nine weeks of the program where the youths are in their work placement Forsyth is in charge of keeping in contact with the youths to ensure that they are working well within their new jobs, and if they needed any other assistance that the program could offer. This involves her checking in with them on a biweekly basis. As for Bore, he will be adjusting the program for the next intake during these nine weeks. This involves him reviewing the material that was taught during the first six weeks and adjusting, altering, and/or removing some material that may not have quite worked that well, as well as other general miscellaneous busywork such as updating the program’s website. Along with that he is also in charge of marketing the program to make sure that people, and more importantly, youths are aware of it.
The Taber Youth Employment Program will begin preparations for their next intake in the new year on Jan. 4.