PELC’s INSPIRE program returns to help young people overcome employment barriers

INSPIRED - A few students who participated in the INSPIRE program are featured at PELC's AGM in 2019. (Sarah Williams/Gazette Staff)

 A three year program offering pre-employment training and career development opportunities for participants age 15 to 30 develop is back at Prince Edward Learning Centre. In total, around 60 Prince Edward County youth  will have the opportunity to understand more about their strengths and interests, set learning goals, develop skill plans and set off on career paths for rewarding work over the next three years. The INSPIRE program has helped area youth complete high school credits, get into college, gain workplace certifications like First Aid and Smart Serve, obtain driver’s licenses and government ID, and connect with mental health services. 

The program is designed for youth facing barriers to education and employment.

Prince Edward Learning Centre executive director Kathy Kennedy. (Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

“Barriers can mean many things,” said Christine Durant, PELC INSPIRE Coordinator. “It might mean you don’t have your grade 12, or transportation is an issue, or even that you’ve never had employment training and are lacking in some of the skills needed to maintain employment.”

A previous INSPIRE graduate credits the program with helping her move forward. 

“I’m a single mom with two kids. Before INSPIRE I didn’t have too much work experience so the training program gave me the skills and confidence I felt I was lacking. The INSPIRE staff really helped with that. They were very motivating, understanding of my barriers and they never gave up on me. The INSPIRE program definitely gave me the opportunity to experience the ideal career path that I always wanted to pursue. My placement at Community Living Prince Edward confirmed that this was the right career path for me. I worked in the day program supporting vulnerable people. The work has made me feel fulfilled and complete. As a result, I’ve gone back to college. The paid training helped me and my family and allowed me to work on college preparation courses,” the INSPIRE graduate said.

Durant added that a reality for many young people returning to the County is job stagnation. 

“Some come back to support ailing family members and can’t finish their education. A graduate joined the INSPIRE program after returning home to Picton to take care of elderly parents in the community. Facing financial and family challenges, she had dropped out of school but through the program she found the rare opportunity to pursue a writing career,” Durant added 

According to PELC Executive Director Kathy Kennedy the stories of personal success of INSPIRE participants are just that- inspiring . 

“Students gain work experience while pursuing their educational goals and making great connections with County businesses and organizations. We are glad to start this program now, in spite of the challenges posed by Covid 19,” Kennedy explained.

Responding to the constraints of the Pandemic, Durant said the first cohort will start virtually, learning skills for online work and safe practices for physical distancing at work. “We are looking forward to working with employers who can provide on site job experience, mentorship and and help implement a skill development plan for program participants,” she said.

The program is an opportunity for employers as well as youth, as it provides a wage subsidy that pays employers over the 16 week work placement. Recent graduates have had positive work experiences with a number of local employers, including The Hub Childcare Centre, Parsons Brewing Co., and Shantz Towing to name a few. 

INSPIRE students are looking for new work placements as early as June. Interested potential students, as well as employers, are encouraged to call Prince Edward Learning Centre to learn more 613 476 1811 ext 105 or email inspire@pelc.ca . 

-Staff