Program builds skills, confidence and connections

Employ! program intake begins May 28

Employ! participant Sarah Johnson, 18, who is about to graduate from A.L. Fortune Secondary School in Enderby, has just been hired as an oil technician at Qwikchange Oil and Lube in Vernon. (Submitted Photo)

It’s easy for Angie Fisher to tell the difference between new and nearly graduating Employ! program participants.

“From the first day to the last day, when they say, ‘Hi my name is,’ the volume and confidence they have is a one to 10 difference,” says Fisher, coordinator of Employ! It’s a four -week training program hosted by Community Futures North Okanagan that sees young people aged 16 to 30 get paid to learn life and employment skills, earn certification and receive job coach support. A new intake begins May 28.

“Employ! is perfect for anyone wanting and ready to improve their skills, make connections with other youth and employers in the community. The ultimate goal of the program is employment, so it’s for anyone who needs help entering or moving forward in the workforce,” says Fisher.

See related: Critical thinking hugs part of program

Sometimes participants lack the confidence to shine in an interview or the training to be hired. Some, like Sarah Johnson, just need experience to land a job that’s going to be a great fit.

While finishing up her Grade 12 studies at A.L. Fortune Secondary School in Enderby, Johnson began to think about how she would earn an income following graduation. After hearing about Employ! and applying to the program, Johnson found herself looking at job postings with her case manager when an ad for an oil technician popped up.

“I always knew I wanted to be an auto technician, I just wasn’t sure how I could go about getting an entry-level job. Once I went to Employ!, my eyes were opened to what jobs there were.”

With some experience, having taken an auto mechanics class while at W.L. Seaton Secondary School, Johnson says the Employ! program helped her secure a job with Qwikchange Oil and Lube in Vernon, and develop important job skills she’ll be able to use long-term.

Employability skills covered in the program include employer expectations, interview skills, interpersonal skills, resumé building, cover letter writing and computer skills. Participants receive certification in First Aid and customer service excellence, and there’s a possibility of pursuing other paid-for training. Employ! Life skills include leadership, teamwork, self-regulating emotions, reflecting positivity and goal-setting.

“We really notice participants’ self-esteem improving and a lot of friendships are made in the classroom,” says Fisher, adding for those who have had negative classroom experiences, Community Futures works to build a warm and calming atmosphere.

“We really focus on creating an environment where everyone feels safe and welcome.”

In addition to volunteer days at local organizations such as O’Keefe Ranch, Employ! plays an important role in connecting job-seekers with employers to help participants find and keep work after the four weeks of workshops. Employers can access up to 120 hours of reimbursed minimum wages for employing a participant.

Fisher arranged for Qwikchange owner Ish Din to come and speak to Johnson about what they do at the shop. Fisher also arranged for Johnson to job shadow one of the mechanics at Quikchange. Johnson kept in contact with Din and her initiative paid off. She was called soon after and offered a job. Johnson now works part-time and has been learning all the ropes.

“One of the mechanics will work with me on servicing the vehicles, and I’ll be the spokesperson, letting the customers know what we are doing.”

For more information about Employ!, reach out to Angie Fisher at 250-545-2215 x 215 or The next intake begins May 28 but spaces fill quickly and there is an application process. Employers interested in hiring Employ! participants can also reach out to Fisher.


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Employ! participant Sarah Johnson, 18, who is about to graduate from A.L. Fortune Secondary School in Enderby, has just been hired as an oil technician at Qwikchange Oil and Lube in Vernon. (Submitted Photo)

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