Setting Sail: WorkBC Employment Services Centre helps people find jobs

When Akram Karimi came to Canada some twenty years ago and saw the ships anchored in English Bay, she knew she had found the industry to which she would devote her career – transportation and logistics. “I lived downtown and could see all the ships come in and knew there must be a demand for it,” says the native of Iran.

She decided to study transportation at Vancouver Community College and had little difficulty in finding employment in her field. However, when she was laid off from the job (the company had gone through a merger and eventually ceased operations) she’d held for almost ten years, she decided to get help.

“I had not done a job search in ten years,” she says. The labour market had changed.  As a woman in her early 50s, she was very aware that there was a lot of competition for jobs. “Ten years ago, there was more demand and less supply and now there is less demand and more supply.”

But she was determined not to give up and set a goal to find a new job in a month. She was referred to WorkBC Employment Services Centre – Vancouver City Centre by the Employment Insurance office. The ESC is funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.

“We offer practical, useful tools that serve clients not just for their current job search needs, but for the future,” says Sylvia Metz, business manager for the ESC.  Some of the tools include job search basics such as resume and cover letter writing, mock job interview workshops, internet access, phone, fax, scanning, social media skills, and even voice mail services.

The ESC also works to address some of the unique barriers individual job seekers might face. For example, they can provide financial supports for a variety of employment-related needs such getting to job interviews.  “We also have a relationship with Working Gear, Dress for Success and Army and Navy to provide interview appropriate clothing,” says Sylvia.

Because the ESC is operated by Family Services of Greater Vancouver, clients who need additional support such as counselling, financial literacy courses, housing or any service that Family Services provides, can be referred to the appropriate program.

For Akram, she benefitted from the enthusiasm and energy of her case manager, Gena Sze, and credits facilitator, Tova Jamernik, for helping her stay motivated and optimistic during her job search.  “Tova recommended some great books for me that kept me inspired,” she says. Her reading list included Eckhart Tolle, Malcolm Gladwell and Dale Carnegie.

“What people come away with from participating in our career development program is a great understanding of who they are and what motivates them,” notes Sylvia.

“This is tax payer’s money well spent,” says Akram. “You want to spend tax payer’s money in a way that brings back a benefit to the whole society.”

Akram was successful in achieving her goal of getting a new job in a month – one which is rewarding and fulfilling. For her, it was a matter of staying optimistic and treating her job search as a full time job. “I was the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave,” she says laughing.