A brand new peer employment initiative is being launched by Kootenay Employment Services (KES) for those at risk or currently experiencing homelessness in Cranbrook, Creston, Invermere, Fernie, and the surrounding area.

A 12-week program, “LINK” is fully funded through the Canada – British Columbia Workforce Development Agreement.

Beth Hurst, Regional Programs and Employer Coordinator at KES, said the program aims to support individuals who are either unemployed or precariously employed and as a result of those circumstances are either in a homeless situation or potentially at risk of losing their housing.

“The benefits of participating in a supportive program such as this, are increased mental and physical wellbeing, and employment readiness,” said Hurst. “A key component of our program supports, is the opportunity for clients to connect in their community in a meaningful way, and to gain employment experience and improve their employability skills, we call this, peer employment.”

LINK will see participants spend three mornings a week in virtual workshops, two mornings a week in a peer employment placement, with options to access personal counselling. According to KES, the virtual workshops come from a strengths-based approach and would cover a variety of topics such as Indigenous culture, addictions, violence and abuse, employment skills, time management, networking, transferrable skills, personality assessments, as well as resume and cover letter writing.

Peer employment is either informal work or community work. KES said it can also include engaging with peers, tasks to support organizations
that are emerging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or other informal and meaningful employment.

“When we talk about peer employment, we mean moving individuals towards employment, and asking them to become involved in their community in some meaningful way,” added Hurst. “This differs from traditional employment. Tasks might include helping at the local shelter or food bank, community garden work, or supporting a peer.”

KES said the peer employment opportunities are decided in partnership with participants and the employer. However, participants can also choose their own placement that fits their experience, interests and skills.

The program will begin on May 10th, 2021.

Kootenay Employment Services provided criteria for LINK and those that could participate in the program.

  • Eligible participants should be:
    • A Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or legally able to work in Canada
    • At the risk of, or experiencing homelessness
    • Unemployed or precariously employed
    • Facing a barrier to employment including addictions, substance abuse, mental health symptoms, criminal justice system involvement, lack of social networks, low self-esteem/low confidence, low income, facing stigma associated with these barriers
  • Benefits to Participants:
    • $60 gift card for each morning they attend in both classroom and peer-employment activities
    • A laptop equipped with Microsoft Word and Excel
      • Provided at the conclusion of the program
    • $600 that can be used towards new work supplies
      • Boots, jackets, professional clothing, etc.
    • The opportunity to work one-on-one with a professional counsellor
    • Funding to access the Breakfast Program
      • Opportunity to develop their own healthy meals
      • Receive meals to more effectively participate in LINK
    • Option to participate in First Aid, Food Safe, Serving it Right and Superhost courses
  • Benefits for Employers:
    • Funding for participants is covered for the duration of the peer employment placement
    • Employers gain the opportunity to give a client a meaningful work experience
    • KES staff provide on-the-job supports for clients during peer employment placements
    • Placements could potentially turn into employment opportunities, although they do not have to

MORE: LINK Peer Employment Program (Kootenay Employment Services)

(Supplied by Kootenay Employment Services)