When Ann arrived in Canada about four years ago, she had 14 years experience working in a financial institution in the Philippines, but she found it difficult to obtain meaningful employment. She decided to enroll for classes at a Canadian school to gain needed accounting credentials. Even after completing the courses, her attempts to get a job were unsuccessful. A large tuition fee loan remained unpaid. She desperately needed to find work.
In April 2013, Ann learned of a workshop offered at LDS Employment Resource Services in Surrey, BC. As she attended the workshops provided by Sister Hancock and Sister Windley, Ann gained job interviewing skills and learned how to network with friends, family, neighbors and other contacts. Those efforts, in addition to referrals provided by the employment missionaries and other contacts, provided her with employment at Costco. Within a few months, the employment missionaries called Ann with another employment opportunity. Following an interview process with Micro Com Systems, she became employed as a document preparation clerk.
Ann’s story mirrors the experiences of other job seekers who develop skills and receive coaching from Church Employment Resource Services. Several employment centers throughout Canada teach skills that help people become economically self reliant.
In March 2012, Sisters Charla Windley and Darlene Hancock began serving a mission at the Vancouver, BC, ERS Centre. “Employment is the oldest of the three welfare functions, so we know that Heavenly Father cares about His children having meaningful employment,” explains Sister Windley. “The ERS Centre helps develop skills so that people can become good job seekers.” www.ldsjobs.org
Sister Hancock, who is also widowed, explains, “I always planned to go on a mission. Life events just changed my companionship.” Despite her husband’s passing, in time her family members were able to take over management of the farm. “About then,” she says, “the timing was right.” For Sister Hancock, her specific mission assignment was “left up to the Lord.” She was called to serve in a Church employment centre. “For me it was an eye-opener as to the emotional drama people face when they lose a job. I enjoy teaching clients new skills and then see them get the job - they are so thrilled!”
ERS Centre missionaries conduct frequent employment workshops. There they help individuals identify marketable skills. “Learning that they have skills and that those skills are valuable to an employer is empowering.” says one ERS trainer.
“Trainers teach job candidates how to turn their skills into power statements to be used when talking with prospective employers,” says Sister Windley. “Then they practise; they do role plays. The sisters help with resume creation and also teach networking, which is how most jobs are found. The average response rate for resumes is about three percent. You have to send out 100 resumes to get three responses. However, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. Time spent talking to people is more effective than sending out resumes,” she says.
The centre serves many people with varying skill levels. At the top of the continuum are clients who are job ready with education, skills and experience. At the other end of the continuum are immigrants new to Canada, having language challenges and no Canadian credentials. “Their struggles are often heartbreaking,” says Sister Hancock, “but clients are very focused on finding a better life for their families.”
One young man who came to the center could not identify his skills or his goals. The missionaries guided him to invision where he wanted to be in five years. “By doing that, he became excited about achieving his new goal” says Sister Hancock. “He started working his plan. He decided to take a lesser job, save money, prepare to go to school and get the job he really wanted.”
Jose came to find work for his wife. Even though she had been a lawyer in Columbia, her poor English skills hampered her efforts to find work in Canada. Without the ability to pay rent, deportation was looming. The couple had faced disappointment at every turn. Jose kept saying it would take a miracle to find a job. He told the employment missionaries he didn’t believe in miracles. Then the sisters remembered one of their contacts, a Spanish speaker, who managed a crew of airplane cleaners. The couple was referred to the airport to check out job possibilities.
The next day, Jose came in giving the sisters big hugs. His wife received a job with the cleaning crew and was now able to stay in Canada with him. They had their miracle.
The employment missionaries also visit Church congregations to offer resources available through the ERS. One visit attracted Vivian, a Chinese Church member, who attended employment workshop sessions, including classes to provide confidence in speaking English. Because Vivian had dog grooming experience, Sister Hancock found a grooming job where Vivian applied. She was interviewed and received employment.
“A job becomes much of your self-image, of who you are. As employers send job opportunities to us, they provide an opportunity for people to have placement and self-worth,” Sister Windley explains. “We emphasize that the Lord loves his people and provides resources for them to be successful. ERS Centres are just one of His tools.”
Note: Sister Janice Andrews and Sister Sandy Thomas will replace Sister Charla Windley and Sister Darlene Hancock in September of 2013, serving in the Vancouver, ERS Centre, Surrey, B.C.