Students gaining job skills by helping seniors

This summer, the Students Helping Seniors program in Ladysmith is connecting students who need job experience with seniors who need help.

This summer, seniors in Ladysmith are getting help around their homes, and youth are gaining valuable work experience — all at the same time through the Students Helping Seniors program.

Students Helping Seniors is a program offered through the Ladysmith Resources Association Association (LRCA) which enables seniors to complete odd jobs around the home with help from local youth. Students provide assistance with yard and garden maintenance, household chores, pet care and shopping.

“For a lot of [the students], it’s their first job experience, so I give them references and help them build a resumé,” said program co-ordinator Emily Van Waes. “It’s a good transition into work. It’s also a good way to get involved in the community.”

Youth help seniors with lawn care, weeding, washing cars, watering plants, household chores such as emptying the trash and changing lightbulbs, basic electronic assistance, pet care and shopping assistance where no vehicle is required.

To quality for assistance, seniors must be at least 55 years of age or need assistance with odd jobs; be willing to provide the necessary tools, equipment and materials; live in the Ladysmith area and be willing to provide supervision.

Students qualify for the program if they are between the ages of 14 and 18 and live in the Ladysmith area. They must attend a mandatory mini orientation session for information on the program and to register.

Van Waes says most students provide lawn care and gardening.

“They do everything from vacuuming, helping [seniors] move, dusting, setting up computers, pet care and shopping, but I’d say yards are the big thing,” she said.

Students who register for the program can work as little or as much as they are able.

This is the fifth year Students Helping Seniors has been running in Ladysmith and the first year it is being run through the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association.

Van Waes is co-ordinating the program for the second year.

Students do not need any job experience to join the program.

“We’re still accepting new students because we have so much demand from seniors,” said Van Waes.

About 16 students are currently participating in the program.There have had up to 30 students in the past, and Van Waes says the number fluctuates.

Van Waes has noticed an increase in the number of seniors asking for help.

“As of right now, I have 15 seniors,” she said. “I think last summer, we had 18 for the whole summer. The year before, we had 12. There’s a lot of demand for it in the Ladysmith area.”

Van Waes feels the program is helpful for young people who need job experience.

“I think it gives them a sense of what a real employer expects from them, how to act on a job, communicating in a professional way and job skills,” she said. “We get them to build a resumé then give them feedback. I give them interview questions. They come out of it more prepared for getting a job. It’s good for young ones, 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds who are looking for something casual throughout the summer. They’ll have something to put on their resumé and someone to give them a good reference for their work ethic. We’re trying to focus a little more on building future working skills with the resumés. Before, we were focusing more on the jobs, but now, we’re trying to prepare them for the future.”

After every job, Van Waes phones the seniors and asks for feedback, and she says they are always thankful.

The Students Helping Seniors program covers the area from Yellow Point to Chemainus.

Students are paid $10 an hour, and the program is funded by Canada Summer Jobs.

To apply for the Students Helping Seniors program, contact Emily Van Waes at 240-245-3079 or emilyvanwaes@gmail.com. The program runs until the end of August, and students can register at any time.