Employee training program popular: capacity increased

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

An employee training pilot program in Slave Lake had to increase the number of people who could take part.

Slave Lake is one of three Canadian communities which are part of a pilot worker training program. It is called Community Action for Workforce Development (CAWD). Noreen Remtulla runs the program for Community Futures Lesser Slave Lake.

“It’s been going really well,” she says. “We’ve actually maxed out.”

Slave Lake CAWD had 25 employers register and 65 workers, out of 80 applicants.

“The other 15 people were ineligible within the parameters of the program, reside outside of the catchment area or did not respond to emails/calls,” says Remtulla.

Workers and employers had to be in the Town of Slave Lake, M.D. of Lesser Slave River, or Sawridge First Nation. The total population of this area is under 10,000. The other two communities are Golden, BC and Arnpior, Ontario.

Remtulla says, “The objective of the Community Action for Workforce Development is to create real, long-lasting change in the Slave Lake Region by supporting employment opportunities and removing barriers for both marginalized communities and local employers. Marginalized communities include: BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour), 2SLGBTQ+, newcomers, older workers (55+ years old), official language minority communities (French), persons with disabilities, women, and youth (15-30 years).”

This is done both by wage subsidies (of up to $5,000) for employers to train their employees and by supporting people looking for work.

The program has had “a lot of really great success stories,” says Remtulla. “This program has really enabled to boost workers’ confidence, help them over come their internal barriers … People are finding meaningful work.”

Remtulla worked one-on-one with workers to identify what supports would help them to retrain for a new job. These included things like child care, buying winter clothing or safety clothing for outdoor jobs, learning about technology and courses, etc.

“There (are) a lot of newcomers,” says Remtulla. “There are a lot of people who are newcomers, who can’t start in the profession that they had in their home country.”

The program helped them bridge the gap while they get the Canadian certification that they need.

Part of the program was helping employers and potential employees meet. With this in mind, the program held a meet and greet and a job fair.

“They’re (the employers are) really appreciative of the job fair,” says Remtulla.

Another part of the program is training employers on topics such as clean economy and social justice.

Dr. Love-Ese Chile has a PhD in chemistry, focused on bio-based plastics and bio material, from the University of British Columbia.

She runs Regenerative Waste Labs in Vancouver, BC. She led the workshop on the clean economy.

“I think it went very well,” she says. The workshop had 10 or 11 local employers from various industries.

One area that the businesses wanted to focus on was food waste reduction, but the current health regulations make food from restaurants extremely difficult to donate to shelters or the food bank. The green economy and clean economy are related terms, she says. Most of her work is with the green economy, which looks to find ways to adapt to climate changes including wildfires and drought. This includes sustainable use of resources, energy efficiency etc. However, the clean economy also looks at social equity. It is “more of a practical goal of how do we build resilient communities,” says Dr. Chile.

The group talked about five ways of building strong and resilient communities.

These are sustainable procurement, reducing emissions, reducing waste, building a circular economy, and remediation or conservation.

A circular economy includes making things so they last longer, repairing old shoes, clothes, or electronics, ‘upcycling’ – creative use of an item for a new purpose – such as a washbasin as a planter, making sure things are recyclable and are recycled.

Sustainable procurement can include buying products from local producers, ones that are part of a circular economy, or have green, fair trade, or other certification.

Some types of waste reduction are recycling and composting, reducing use of paper, cleaning unwanted emails so they don’t take electronic energy on the server, etc.

“There is a collective drive to protect our natural environment,” says Dr. Chile.

Another idea which came up at the meeting was eco-tourism. Emission reduction ideas included timers for lights, carpooling, sustainable heating, etc.

This pilot project ends March 31.

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