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Posted: April 29, 2021

Initiative connects people and opportunities

Kootenay Employment Services (KES) is launching a peer employment initiative for individuals at risk or experiencing homelessness in Cranbrook, Creston, Invermere, Fernie and surrounding areas.

This initiative is funded through the Canada – British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement. “LINK” is a 12-week program to help bridge the gap between unstable housing and employment readiness.

Participants will spend three mornings a week attending virtual workshops, two mornings a week in a peer employment placement and have the option to access personal counselling group sessions. The virtual workshops take a strengths-based approach and focus on various topics including, Indigenous culture, addictions, violence and abuse, employment skills, time management, networking, transferrable skills, personality assessments, and resume and cover letter writing.

“This community initiative aims to support those individuals that are either unemployed or precariously employed, and as a result, have found themselves in homelessness situation or potentially at risk of losing their housing. The benefits of participating in a supportive program such as this, are increased mental and physical wellbeing, and employment readiness,” said Beth Hurst, Regional Programs and Employer Coordinator at Kootenay Employment Services. “A key component of our program supports, is the opportunity for clients to connect in their community in a meaningful way, and to gain employment experience and improve their employability skills, we call this, peer employment.”

Peer employment refers to informal work, community work, engaging with peers and tasks to support peers/organizations that are emerging due to the COVID-19 pandemic OR other informal and meaningful employment.

“When we talk about peer employment, we mean moving individuals towards employment, and asking them to become involved in their community in some meaningful way,” said Hurst. “This differs from traditional employment. Tasks might include helping at the local shelter or food bank, community garden work, or supporting a peer.”

Peer employment opportunities are decided in partnership between KES, participants and the employer. Participants also may select their own placement that fits with their lived experience, interests and skills.

Funding is provided by the Government of Canada through the Canada-British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement.

Eligible participants should be:

  • A Canadian/permanent resident or legally able to work in Canada;
    • At risk of, or experiencing homelessness;
    • Unemployed or precariously employed;
    • Facing a barrier to employment including addictions, substance abuse, mental health symptoms, criminal justice; system involvement, lack of social networks, low self-esteem/low confidence, low income, facing stigma associated with these barriers.

Benefits to Participants:

To help encourage attendance participant will receive:

  • $60 gift card for each morning they attend in both classroom and peer-employment activities; • A laptop equipped with Microsoft Word and Excel (at the conclusion of the program);
  • $600 that can be used towards new work supplies (boots, jacket, professional clothing, etc);
  • The opportunity to work one-on-one with a professional counsellor;
  • Funding to access to the Breakfast Program to develop their own healthy meals, nourishing their bodies to participate fully in LINK;
  • All participants will also receive the option to participate in First Aid, Food Safe, Serving it Right and Superhost courses.

Benefits for Employers:

  • Funding for participants is covered by our funder for the duration of the peer-employment placement;
  • Employers gain the opportunity to give a client a meaningful work experience;
  • KES staff provide on-the-job supports for clients during peer employment placements;
  • Placements could turn into employment opportunities (but do not need to).

Kootenay Employment Services

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