by Anne McDonagh
originally published in the May/June 2010 Issue
By August of this year, you will be able to get all the help you need to find employment at one location near you. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) through Employment Ontario, the term the Ministry uses to describe all its employment initiatives, is in the process of providing a streamlined, one stop system for those seeking employment and training programs. In the past different agencies offered different services for the unemployed. But there were duplications, gaps in service and a lack of coordination. The full range of services to help people find work was not available at every Employment Ontario location.
Employment Ontario has reduced the number of agencies providing employment services and replaced them with ‘full service’ agencies. Where once clients may have had to access more than one agency, for example, for career counseling or resume writing, they will now have access to all services in one location.
There will be 70 such centres in Toronto alone. The goal is to make sure that anyone looking for work anywhere in Ontario has all the resources he or she might need close by and in one location. Agencies and organizations providing the new model will help people find work. The services provided include job search strategies, such as resumé preparation, as well as information about different careers and occupations, the local labour market, employment and training opportunities, on-the-job training and/ or work experience. They also include information about all Employment Ontario programs and services, as well as information about and referral to other community services and supports.
In addition, employers can get help identifying their human resource skill requirements; finding the people with the skills, capabilities, interests and experience they need; and developing on-the-job training plans and monitoring placements to support employee success and retention.
Great emphasis is being placed on these centres being client-centered so that the counsellors will not deliver the same program to everyone. It may be that you are able to conduct a selfdirected job search; that is, you will be able to use the resources at the centre on your own. Perhaps you need to use the computers to research careers and the job market or to write a resume, but basically you can do this without much assistance, and these Employment Ontario Centres will provide the resources and information—computers, printers, fax machines, labour market information—that you can use to get a job.
Or you may need more help. Are you looking for the right kind of work for you? What jobs are in demand? How can you get more training? What kind of training are you capable of. All these questions can be answered at your employment centre likely through an assessment of your skills, capabilities, interests, experience and career goals. These needs will be assessed, and you will get the services you require and not the services you don’t require.
If you need this type of assisted job search, you and your counsellor will work on your particular barriers to employment as well as help you find employment. There will be job developers at the centres helping employers find the right worker and the worker find the right job. Once you have a job suitable to your interests and abilities, your counsellor will still be available if you need help and encouragement and will in any case be keeping an eye on you to ensure your success in the work place.
Employment Ontario has taken into account that certain expenses come up when someone is starting a new job, and there is up to $500 available for one-time expenses such as clothing, transportation, language skills assessment, emergency child care, translation of documents etc.
You may need more training such as literacy or ESL before you can look for a job, and the counsellor who discovers this need in the assessment will refer you to the training provider that you require. Your counsellor will still be in touch, and when you have finished your training you will come back to the centre ready for the job search.
As mentioned above, seventy agencies have been selected in Toronto as ‘full-service’ employment centres. Needless to say some agencies that have provided employment services in the past have not been selected. They have, therefore, lost their funding for employment services, which in some cases has resulted in the closing of the agency. Many workers employed in these agencies that were not chosen have lost their jobs. On the other hand, some of the “chosen agencies” have had to hire. It will be a while before the dust settles, and we see what effects these changes have had on the many workers in the employment counselling world.
The government adamantly denies that these changes are an effort to save money. Some of those affected aren’t sure, but overall the impression is that the government is sincere in its efforts to streamline the employment centres and to provide the same services across Ontario. Nevertheless, some lives have been devastated by the changes. Organizations and employees that have done nothing wrong, in fact have worked hard and successfully for their clients, find themselves sidelined, diminished and out of work.
Assuming that the new centres will be large organizations, one criticism has been that smaller agencies may not have provided complete employment services but made up for that deficiency in the personal attention they gave every client. One former client told a counsellor at an agency that has had to close, “You were really different. We felt you cared about us and our situation.”
Sometimes that caring, which can make all the difference to a client, gets lost in a bigger organization. Sometimes the unemployed, having lost their self-confidence, are intimidated by a large organization. One young man, who went to an employment centre a few years ago, was pointed in the direction of a computer. He did not know how to use a computer and rather than embarrass himself, he left the centre and never went back.
We wish the new model well. Certainly the process for choosing the centres has been open and transparent. The expectations of the Ministry for the Employment Ontario Centres are high. To some extent it seems that funding will depend upon how effective and how efficient each centre is.
The Ministry hopes that with this new model Ontarians will be able to find the employment and training programs and services they need in a one-stop shop, rather than going from place to place, as many did in the past, which will make Employment Ontario a more reliable support mechanism for all Ontarians.
Much of the information in this article is from the Employment Ontario website www.edu.on.ca/eng/tcu/.