It pays nothing and lasts only until the end of November, but Dori Thomas still has just good things to say about her new job.
The 28-year-old is at the midpoint of an unpaid, three-week stint at Haven Hill Retirement Centre where she’s learning what it takes to be a support services worker in the residential care industry. She secured the placement through the Footprints to Employment program offered by the Penticton Indian Band.
“I’m definitely going to look into doing this” as a career, said Thomas, who worked mainly as a fruit picker before her son was born in 2007.
“He (recently) started going to school, so I figured why not me go to school as well?” she said. “Hopefully I’ll be getting a job out of this, working full time and (at) something more permanent.”
Thomas shared her story Wednesday at a press conference at Haven Hill where the B.C. government announced a new round of funding for aboriginal employment training. A total of $1.8 million will go to 12 programs across B.C., including $150,000 for Footprints here in Penticton.
Program manager Mindy Rollins said the money will fund the program, which actually started in May, for 18 months, during which at least 24 people should receive employment training and counselling over 12-week terms.
“We’ve got 12 weeks of solid time to figure out what their strengths are and where they would like to go, whether that’s back into training or to work experience or back into higher education,” Rollins said.
The current rotation began with 14 people, but “there was some attrition and so we’ve got six (people) really committed now,” said Rollins, adding she’s looking to hook up with more Penticton employers who are interested in hosting program participants.
The trial run at Haven Hill marks the first time Footprints has sent participants into the real world for hands-on experience. Thomas and the others have worked in the laundry and kitchen there and will next week learn housekeeping skills.
Darrell Bennett, the facility’s support services manager, said full-time employees in the field can expect to earn $15 to $25 an hour and have decent job prospects.
“There’s always movement in that industry,” he said, adding though that new hires usually start out as casual employees.
Advanced Education Minister John Yap, who made the funding announcement Wednesday, said afterwards that aboriginal employment training programs are a key part of his government’s jobs plan.
“The aboriginal community is one of the fastest growing segments of our population, and it’s important that we provide the opportunities for aboriginal learners, who want to, to take part in these training opportunities to fill the jobs that need to be filled,” he said.
Despite the apparent need, Yap couldn’t say if the cash will flow in the future.
“This is the funding for the current year. As is our current practice with budget measures, we will look at the budget for the new year in February,” he said.
According to a press release, the provincial and federal governments have teamed up to provide $8.7 million for aboriginal employment training programs in B.C. since 2010.