January 04, 2012

Employment services help job seekers build skills

As published in The Erin Advocate

I have been lucky when it comes to employment. I've only had to search for a job twice in the last 30 years. Job security is a good thing, but it does leave you a bit rusty when it comes time to scramble for something new.

For 20 years, I've been doing graphic design and pre-press work at a commercial printer. I had hoped that the job might last until I reach the age of 60 (just five more years) when I might be able to slide into semi-retirement.

That may still happen, but with the business of putting ink on paper in turmoil and decline, the future is quite uncertain. For the short term at least, instead of layoffs, my colleagues and I are facing a significant reduction in hours. Those of us wanting to maintain something close to full-time work are now looking for other sources of income or new jobs.

With that in mind, I browsed with interest through some information from the Wellington County Employment Resource Centre, located on Wyndham Street North in downtown Guelph. The services are free for all county residents.

Free, of course, meaning no extra fee. We all contribute to county services through our property taxes and rent payments, including a pay increase for county staff (2.75 per cent for unionized, 3 per cent for non-union). That last time raises came around where I work was 2003, and most of the staff have stayed on.

At the Resource Centre, there are workshops on job search strategies, resum├ęs, communication skills, word processing, cover letters and interviews. What caught my attention, though, are topics that deal with the traumatic effects of job loss.

For example, next Tuesday, there is a morning session on Handling Stress Through Meditation. During a time of distress, it could be quite valuable to learn new methods of increasing concentration, self-confidence and inner peace.

The full calendar and other information is available at www.county.wellington.on.ca, in the Ontario Works section under Social Services, though you don't have to be an Ontario Works client to use the services.

There is a workshop on Healthy Lifestyles, which can be difficult to achieve during a prolonged job search. It covers eating well on a budget, exercise tips and strategies for creating balance. Participants will leave with an action plan, some fresh ideas and knowledge of community resources that can help them meet their goals.

In addition to workshops, there is personalized help to identify employment barriers and access community services. Computers are available with internet access and Microsoft Office programs. There are local job postings, phones and an answering service, photocopying, printing and faxing services, and how-to booklets.

Job seekers may also want to check out similar services at Second Chance Employment Counselling, a separate agency that has been providing employment, retraining and educational support in Guelph and Wellington communities for over 35 years. They provide one-to-one counselling and access to job search resources in Erin through EWCS (East Wellington Community Services).

They have offices in Guelph and Fergus, plus the Youth Resource Centre on the second floor at Stone Road Mall. They can provide guidance on apprenticeships, entrepreneurship and upgrading qualifications. You can get more information and on-line job search links at www.2ndchance.ca.