I feel fortunate to work where I work, with colleagues who are committed to our community. I enjoy coming to work every day. But I also recognize that not everyone has this experience.
Unemployment can be overwhelming — the feelings of insecurity and self-doubt that come with joblessness are all too real. Most of us have felt the intense relief that comes with finding work. But I think Dr. Lewchuk makes an important point: it’s not just about working, it’s about working in a job with a future.
A few months back, I met a man in his 20s who was struggling to make ends meet. He lacked confidence. He was leaning on his parents. And he had no idea how he would build a career for himself. All of this was weighing heavily on him.
Through the Hammerheads program, supported by the Youth Challenge Fund, he became an apprentice in the construction industry. When he was offered a job, he was over the moon. Very quickly, he developed a sense of independence, pride, confidence and security. For him, this full-time, permanent job was transformational.
These are tough times. Opportunities are limited and, as Dr. Lewchuk describes, job quality is in serious decline. It’s even tougher for people from under-served neighbourhoods, or those that were falling behind even before the recession.
United Way agencies are experiencing this reality firsthand. They’re supporting people who have lost their jobs and are re-building their careers. They’re helping the parents that are barely able to feed and clothe their kids despite holding down multiple jobs. They’re assisting newcomers looking for positions in their field. They’re giving youth the boost they need to get their foot in the door.
One of these agencies, St. Stephen’s Community House, has seen a 300% increase in older unemployed workers seeking support since the recession. Skills for Change has seen a 68% increase in service demand. ACCES Employment is seeing record numbers of clients walking through their doors. Heather Sant from JobStart recently told me that some clients arrive at her agency with little hope or knowledge in the search for full-time, permanent work. All of these agencies know how tough it is to land a good job — and how important it is to build a foundation for employment success by enhancing skills, networks and experience
Our city must keep investing in community agencies; organizations that support people through unemployment and underemployment. We also need to create more opportunities for good, solid employment. And we need everyone working together — agencies, the private sector, and government — to make progress. Everyone has a role to play.
I’d like to invite you to share with us your ideas for making jobs better in our city. How do you think we can improve job quality?