Prince Edward Learning Centre’s INSPIRE program returns to help local youth

GETTING INSPIRED (From Left) INSPIRE Program student Hope and Green Gables owner Diana Cooper at the Bloomfield store recently. (Photo Submitted)

 

DESIRÉE DECOSTE

STAFF WRITER

A three-year, Prince Edward County-based youth empowerment and employment initiative is back under way .

The Prince Edward Learning Centre (PELC)’ s INSPIRE program saw its first group of participants of 2020 start placements with local organizations and businesses in the last few weeks.

The program, which is funded by the Ministry of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, is for youth between the ages of 15 and 30 who face barriers to employment. Organizers anticipate a total of six groups to come through the program over a three-year period.

INSPIRE program participant Jewelle. (Submitted Photo)

“Partnering with local employers, community partners and sector experts who are willing to share their experience and make room for youth to thrive are some of the key facets of the program,” said Christine Durant, Project Coordinator. “Most of all it’s about removing barriers. Barriers preventing youth from entering the job market vary and include not having recent job experience, being a newcomer to Canada, people who haven’t finished high school, or who have a disability which could be a physical or mental disability. Disability definitions are broad and include people experiencing anxiety, for instance. Basically, any barrier that prevents people from employment is considered a barrier we work to overcome. We also try to match participants with their areas of career interest although, under COVID-19 has been more challenging.”

So far participants haver completed four weeks of training connected with resume writing, anti-oppression, workplace communications, and Occupational Health and Safety. Additionally, participants have been developing their career pathways with diverse foundational training in a variety of fields: landscaping, social work, marketing, mental health, audio engineering, law, and early childhood development while also working on advancing their essential skills in oral communication, numeracy, and writing. 

“It’s been a busy few weeks and under COVID-19, training so far has been online,” Durant said “It’s impressive the diversity of interests, learning and career building paths participants have chosen to pursue, equally so the diversity of community partners and experts willing to share their expertise. The placements are just as diverse as people’s learning paths. Participants are dotted throughout the County and Belleville with placements at the municipality, farms, grocery stores, social service organizations, wineries and retail shops.”

Green Gables in Bloomfield have been involved in the program for the past three years providing opportunities for youth to advance their customer service skills. 

“We’re happy to work with Prince Edward Learning Centre and work with youth,” said Diana Cooper, owner of Green Gables. “The placements have been mutually beneficial for us and the participants. It’s a program that makes a difference.”

Kathy Kennedy, Executive Director of Prince Edward Learning Centre explained feedback from participants says a lot about the kinds of barriers being broken and the kinds of opportunities being developed through the INSPIRE program.

Jewelle, an INSPIRE participant, said PELC connects participants with worthwhile resources and support that helps young people thrive.

“I’d say my experience has been great. The program is more than what I had expected, it has been of higher quality than other similar programs I’ve participated in. The guest speakers and instructors shared examples from their life experience which made me feel more comfortable sharing my own experiences. I was able to interact and ask questions openly. Engaging with the other participants was really nice, I felt like we were all pretty supportive of each other and having the chance to connect during this time of isolation has meant a lot,” Jewelle said. “I was able to learn about relevant topics like anti – oppression training, reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, and managing stress and anxiety in the workplace. Covering these topics added to the quality of the program. This program has allowed me to overcome barriers such as finding employment in a rural area, that is also relevant to my future career goals. My placement is helping me to build community connections and get to know community organizations which is really a blessing during COVID.”

Youth interested in the program can apply now for the next program starting in October. Employers interested in getting involved in providing a placement or sharing their expertise can get involved by contacting Christine Durant at 613-476-1811 or by emailing inspire@pelc.ca

For more information on PELC please visit www.princeedwardlearningcentre.com