It will be business as usual as Global Vocational Services begins offering employment services to local residents this week, says owner Ann Norris.
The Duncan-based company opened its doors in Ladysmith this Monday after winning the provincial contract for employment services in the Cowichan region from the B.C. government late last year.
A grand opening ceremony is being planned for later this month.
“There will be a resource centre where people can access information on job postings, they can use computers in job search, we will have employment counsellors and resumé workshops, and we can provide assistance to people who are interested in re-training or the wage subsidy program or even in starting their own business,” Norris said.
Under the new Employment Program of BC (EPBC), Global will be responsible for providing employment services within the catchment area, which now extends from Yellowpoint to the top of the Malahat and west to Nitnat.
Previously, Duncan and Ladysmith were separated into their own catchment, and the contract for local employment services belonged to Employment Navigators. Employment Navigators stopped seeing clients March 30 and has a month to wind down before vacating its First Avenue building on April 30.
Employment Navigators held an open house April 1 to say goodbye and thank you to the community. The event included a silent auction for the disposal of the Ladysmith Employment Assistance Society’s assets, and all the money raised through the auction will be given back to the community.
“The community’s been very supportive,” said executive director Ann MacGillivray.
Employment Navigators employed eight staff members in Ladysmith.
“This is extremely sad, and it is heart-wrenching,” said MacGillivray. “What I told the staff at a staff meeting is to think of all the people in Ladysmith they have helped move forward and helped make their lives become successful. That is the crux of what Employment Navigators is about. To be allowed to do this, the opportunity has been a blessing.”
MacGillivray believes Employment Navigators has helped “hundreds upon hundreds” of people in almost 20 years. Anywhere between 400 and 500 people came through its doors each month, and more than 3,000 accessed employment assistance in 2011.
MacGillivray feels Employment Navigators’ service is summed up well by one former client who e-mailed to say she was sad the office was closing because the career consultant she saw there believed in her when she didn’t even believe in herself.
Jennifer Watt has used Employment Navigators for career testing and consulting with Art Lewis.
“There was a lot of personal support,” she said. “I did a lot of testing here. That was great and focused me a bit. It was great to have the convenience to walk in here and e-mail a resumé or cover letter and always get great advice. As always, it was great to deal with the people here; they’re nice people here. They let me take books out of the library; anything I needed.”
Board member Jacynthe Dugas established Employment Navigators nearly 20 years ago. She was supervisor of employment services in Nanaimo with the federal government, and a similar service was being provided in Parksville. Dugas felt it would be useful in Ladysmith, and she joined the Ladysmith Employment Assistance Society board in the early 1990s after leaving her government job.
Dugas is sad to see Employment Navigators close.
“What a loss for the community after 20 years of service of helping people,” she said. “For me, it brings a lot of sadness because I established the agency. There was a need, and there is still a need.”
Dugas worries about how the provincial government is changing the way the service is being provided, such as placing clients in tiers — not about Global Vocational Services themselves as the providers.
“We do wish the new service provider every success,” said MacGillivray.
Global Vocational Services is located at Suite 11-740 First Ave. and will be open Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We’re hoping it’s relatively seamless for the people who use the services, so what they found at Employment Navigators, they will still be able to find in our offices,” Norris said. “We certainly welcome everybody to stop by.”