Skills training and support brought Christie back to school

Editor’s note: This month, WorkBC is celebrating Disability Employment Month in British Columbia, which provides an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce, and the employers and communities who support their success. Following is the second in a three-part series highlighting success stories.

Natalie Appleton

Special to The Morning Star

A learning disability could have prevented Christie Baker from getting the training and education she needed for work, but thanks to WorkBC, she has been able to overcome a number of obstacles on her path to becoming a human service worker.

Diagnosed with a learning disability when she was 13, Baker struggled with reading comprehension and writing.

In Grade 8, she was diagnosed as having a Grade 1 reading ability. When she was 15, she attended what was then the only school in Canada offering full-time programs specific for students with learning disabilities.

Despite this help, Baker, originally from Regina, Sask., still struggled when it came to reading, which continued into adulthood.

“My areas of difficulty include word recognition, comprehension and I have little to no short-term memory retention, but I do have excellent long-term memory,” she explains.

Baker was able to get find work in palliative care. However, due to the physical demands of the job, she had to stop when an injury prevented her from being able to perform her duties. That’s when she approached Community Futures North Okanagan (CFNO) and the WorkBC Employment Services Centre to explore her options.

Assigned to a case manager who performed a needs assessment, Baker attended several workshops in career development and researched what fields would fit her abilities.

“We assess clients on what their needs are and do a job search that utilizes their current skills and then assess them for what skills they don’t have,” says Jay Gould, financial coordinator with CFNO.

First supported to learn basic employment readiness skills, including literacy and numeracy needed for various types of employment, Baker underwent further assessment.

After career and labour market research, which included informational interviews, it was determined that Baker would benefit from going back to school for certification in human service work. Baker enrolled in the two-year Human Service Worker program at Selkirk College in Castlegar.

“Community Futures has been amazing. They have helped me in areas where I had a hard time coping. I was able to take classes, go back to school, and find out what I really want to do with my life.”

“Christie struggled because of her learning disabilities but she worked hard and persevered by making use of our services for growth and support,” says Gould.

“Staff at Selkirk College in Castlegar were also very helpful in helping her complete term papers, reading assignments and other course work.”

Baker also used text-to-speech software, took neurofeedback sessions and worked with tutors.

“It made the journey a lot easier. I did really well at school. I tried to be really prepared and organized. And although it usually took me five-to-six times longer to write a paper, once I got it, everything fell into place.”

Baker is working in victim services at the RCMP detachment in Castlegar now that her skills training with WorkBC is complete.

She credits Community Futures and the WorkBC program for helping her find her path.

“Community Futures has been amazing. They have helped me in areas where I had a hard time coping. I was able to take classes, go back to school, and find out what I really want to do with my life.”

If you need Skills Training, Community Futures North Okanagan can help. Skills Training for eligible clients can be supported in the Employment Program of British Columbia (EPBC). Financial support is also available determined by the individual’s financial situation and training costs using guidelines that have been set by the ministry.