While finishing up her Grade 12 studies at A.L. Fortune Secondary School in Enderby, Sarah Johnson was thinking about joining the work force. Like many her age about to graduate, she needed to figure out ways to earn an income and get some job experience.
The 18-year-old decided to approach Community Futures North Okanagan, where she was told about the EMPLOY! program, which helps job-seekers aged 16 to 30 access job search tools, personal skills and certifications to help them find work.
“Within the week that I saw my case manager at Community Futures, we were browsing through different jobs that I would like to do. I looked at the job postings and saw one for an oil technician and I jumped on that,” says Johnson.
“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.”
Greasing the wheels
With some experience, having taken an auto mechanics class while attending W.L. Seaton Secondary School, Johnson says the EMPLOY! program not only helped her secure a job with Qwikchange Oil and Lube in Vernon, it gave her important skills for her to become employable. The program also counted as some of Johnson’s class credits, arranged through her school.
During the four-week program, participants are helped with basic computer skills, cover letter writing, resumé building, and cashier experience. They also receive certification in customer service excellence and Level 1 First Aid.
“We also worked a lot on communication skills, interview skills, body language and positive attitude,” says Johnson.
EMPLOY! participants also attend a job fair and have professionals in the community come visit them to talk about their respective jobs.
Connecting all the parts
The program directly connects job-seekers with potential employers and employers can access up to 120 hours of reimbursed minimum wages for employing a participant.
During the first week of the program, EMPLOY! coordinator Angie Fisher arranged for Qwikchange owner Ish Din to come speak to Johnson about what they do at the auto shop and later arranged for Johnson to job shadow one of the mechanics for a day.
“I asked a lot of questions such as for the first 90 days, what he would expect from me and I received information on what he was looking for. His main thing was for his employees to have a good attitude,” says Johnson. “After the job shadow, I fell completely in love with this job.”
Tightening the wrench
Johnson continued to keep in contact with Din, and her initiative and positive attitude paid off. She was called soon after and offered a job at Qwikchange.
She has now been working part-time at the shop for the past month while finishing her studies.
“I am learning lots. I am pretty much working on my own vehicles at this point. And if I need help, someone will work with me on servicing the vehicle and I’ll be the spokesperson, letting the customer know what we are doing,” says Johnson.
“I am one of three women who works at Qwikchange. They are welcoming women more and more into the auto mechanical and oil technology trade.”
Johnson will be attending graduation with her fellow aboriginal students May 30 and with the rest of her A.L. Fortune class of 2018 on June 8, and hopes to eventually study at Okanagan College to become a mechanical technician or heavy-duty mechanic.
She recommends the EMPLOY! program to any student or young person looking for new opportunities.
“If you’re not sure what you want to do in your future, I would definitely recommend the EMPLOY! program because they don’t work specifically on one job. For example, they are not getting everybody to do mechanics. They’re open and they look around and see what you’re interested in and what your hobbies are and what you like to do even outside of work.”
If you’re between the ages of 16 and 30 and looking for valuable employment skills, or if you are an employer in the community interested in hiring an EMPLOY! participant, contact Angie Fisher at Community Futures North Okanagan, 250-545-2215 ext. 215 or [email protected]. The next intake of participants begins May 28.