Nova Scotia Works expands services throughout the region

By David Pretty

Back in November of 2015, the Nova Scotia government began working with local service providers to bring sweeping changes to the province’s $23-million employment services system. Eleven months later, Nova Scotia Works was launched to provide better accessibility and innovative resources for job seekers, youth, and business owners alike.

This new re-implementation provides many new resources including additional front line staff, more  focused career counselling for young people, helping businesses overcome staffing challenges, increasing accessibility for job seekers with specialized challenges and promotes long-term professional development.

And while the program’s overall budget remains the same, this new alignment cuts infrastructure and administrative costs by twenty-six percent. As a result, more front line staff have been retained and additional savings are going towards improving client services, helping business owners and creating school outreach programs.

According to Jane Orrell, Executive Director of service provider EmployAbility Partnership, this new direction was a logical move.

“The Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education looked at what was working and saw the value in expanding these services throughout the region.”

To ensure that all areas of the region have access to these new services, some organizational changes were required.

“We had eight agreement holders in Cape Breton and we now have three,” Orrell points out. “This includes Marilyn Ruelland with the Cape Breton Y.M.C.A. who has offices in Sydney, New Waterford, and Glace Bay as well as Charlie MacLellan with North Side Employment and Resource Centre, which has sites in North Sydney, Baddeck and Ingonish. We’re working very closely together to roll out all aspects of the delivery of the program’s new framework.”

MacLellan is quick to note that established services will continue uninterrupted but with enhanced options for clients.

“In the past we’d refer clients with disabilities to the EmployAbility Project because they had additional resources and funding to assist those clients,” he says. “But now with this new model we have additional staff to serve all clients as well as the funding for adaptive technology, disability supports, educational assessments, and additional tools to assist clients with their job search.”

And with 62% of job seekers in Cape Breton going to the Y.M.C.A. centres for help, this new structure is a blessing for Marilyn Ruelland.

“The new framework has increased our front line staff, enabling us to better serve the high number
of clients visiting our sites,” she says.

Orrell points out that the majority of employees brought on board would have been displaced from organizations that are no longer provincial agreement holders.

“We’re excited to bring that expertise back and have those individuals continue to offer the same great service that they were providing under a different provider.”

She goes on to say that additional training will ensure that staff will be better equipped than ever to address the specialized needs of clients; an improvement that’s vital to Marilyn Ruelland.

“Certified Career Counsellors now possess credentials to work with multi-barriered clients,
enabling us to best serve those that are most in need of our assistance,” she observes.

Another key focus is the concept of universal design, which strives to provide facilities and resources that are equally intuitive for everyone. Although Orrell admits that assessing the universal design in close to thirty locations across the province is a huge effort, the end result will be rewarding.

“We want it so that a visually impaired or blind person can go to any resource centre in the province and do their job search the same way that everybody else does.”

In addition to retaining the features that clients have come to rely on, Orrell reveals new innovations in the form of “Employer Engagement Specialists”. These highly-specialized staff are tasked to  proactively help local business owners research government programs and resources, an endeavor that Orrell says can be “cumbersome and time consuming”. It’s a strategy that’s already paying dividends.

“An Employer Engagement Specialist recently approached a local businessman who was unaware of the many programs, supports and incentives offered to Nova Scotia businesses,” Orrell relates. “After determining his business needs we assisted him with recruitment, wage subsidy incentives, and employee training opportunities. By utilizing our services, he now has more staff and new locations.”

MacLellan agrees that this is a “great addition to our menu of services.”

“The ability to liaise with employers on a full-time basis has already borne dividends in the five months since the Employer Engagement Specialists position was created,” he says. “Closer ties to businesses is a win-win situation for both the employers and job seekers.”

Orrell is equally enthused about several brand new initiatives, including transition programs for people with criminal records, “virtual services” which allow clients to remotely participate in seminars at other sites as well as a host of innovative youth services.

“We’ll be going into the schools and providing individuals with accurate labour market information so they’re not exiting the school system without a plan,” she says.

This, Orrell believes, will “have an impact on the number of youth that are leaving our province.”

All of these features add up to a decidedly-positive direction for Nova Scotia Works.

“It’s probably one of the best frameworks that I’ve seen with respect to employment service delivery,” Orrell enthuses.  “We’re really excited about it.”

For Charlie MacLellan, it’s all about the program’s newfound flexibility to help clients find employment.

“We no longer have to worry if something is in our mandate or jurisdiction. We now have the funding and staff to access clients, businesses, employers, and schools. It’s more of a holistic approach to the art of matching employers with employees, helping people find good jobs and businesses find reliable and skilled employees.”

It’s this standard of exceptional service that’s most important to Marilyn Ruelland.

“The new framework sees employment services being offered in an inclusive and consistent
manner across the province. As a long-standing, inclusive resource centre, it’s refreshing to see that all centres are now positioned as mainstream, multi-functional organizations servicing all Nova Scotians.”

Locations where you can access Nova Scotia Works resources:

Northside Economic Development Assistance Corporation (NEDAC)

North Sydney
105 King Street

36243 Cabot Trail
PO Box 233

EmployAbility Association of Cape Breton

500 George Street, Suite 250

Port Hawkesbury
811 Reeves Street, Unit 6

15122 Cabot Trail

15792 Central Avenue

st. Peter’s
10036 Grenville Street

Petit De Grat
3433 Route 206

YMCA Employment Resource Centre

399 Charlotte Street

Glace Bay
106 Reeves Street

New Waterford
479 Heelan Street