Josephine Point is one of 11 local young adults who recently finished the Skills Link Work

Working, learning and earning in Agassiz

Young adults overcame barriers to gain education and employment

For a small group of Agassiz’s young adults, the year 2013 has been a time of transformation.

In January, they began an intense job search and skills training program designed to propel them toward success. And last Friday, 11 of them were honoured in a special ceremony marking their completion of Skills Link’s Work, Earn and Learn Program.

Among the graduates was Josephine Point, who has been a volunteer at the Agassiz Harrison Community Services for the three years. That’s where she initially heard about the chance to participate in the Work, Earn and Learn program.

Like her cohorts, Point worked her way through the initial four-week, full-time job search and life skills training. Following that, each participant moved onto a five-week practicum at a participating business or organization.

Point chose the Mission Therapeutic Riding Stables, where she was able to put her love of animals and people to work.

“This was about finding their calling,” said Heidi Trautmann, executive director of AHCS. Following their first practicum, the students returned to the centre to complete a week of certification that would support their employment. These tickets included WHMIS, forklift operation, first aid/ CPR, Serving it Right and FoodSafe.

With that under their belts, they headed back out to their practicum placements. While some of the young adults chose to return to the same practicum, others took the chance to try a new one.

The same program ran successfully in Agassiz from 2004-2008, helping more than 60 local youth carve a new career path. It’s designed for those aged 15-30 who have barriers to employment. While it’s funded by Service Canada, this year’s program was run through Community Services with the guidance of Heather Dixon.

She spoke fondly of the successes each participant found through the four-month program.

“The greatest thank you and reward is when you see young people doing well in their lives,” she said, adding that all the employers who took on practicum placements gave positive feedback on the young people they hired.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about you,” she told the graduates.

Their employers included Jack’s Steakhouse, Silvano’s Restaurant, A & W, A is for Apple Daycare (Chilliwack), Mission Museum, Chilliwack Archives, Sto:Lo Research Centre, Mission Therapeutic Riding Stables, Bridal Falls Shell Station, Holly Tree Florist, Red Apple, Kent Outdoors, Barton Insurance and Layback Lounge.

The program wouldn’t have been possible without businesses stepping up to take on practicum placements. And for some businesses, those placements have turned into job creation.

Jon Vignal found such a good fit with his placement at Holly Tree that he’s been invited to work there permanently.

“I can’t imagine a day without John in the store now,” owner Sandy Lance said at the ceremony.

Vignal is an example of how examining career paths can open up new ideas. While he was interested in event planning, he hadn’t initially thought of flower arrangements. But he quickly learned that florists are an integral part of event planning. And the work naturally coincided with his creative side, he said.

Vignal also created the flowers that each participant received at the ceremony last Friday, which was held in the WorkBC Resource Room.

Other participants will move onto into post-secondary education, with a better understanding of their chosen career.

Trautmann sent them off with some kind parting words.

“Go on in your life in the good path you are on, and find your place in life,” she told them.

To find out more about Skills Link and other programming, visit Agassiz Harrison Community Services and the WorkBC office on Pioneer Ave. in Agassiz.