Workplace literacy focus of new Transition Centre

Duane Hicks

The new NCDS Transition Centre held its grand opening here Friday, and the staff want the public to know they’re ready to assist unemployed and laid-off workers, the under-employed, those preparing to write apprenticeship or GED exams, or others hoping to return to post-secondary training to get the skills they need.
Centre manager/co-ordinator Cathy Emes said the need for a transition centre has been evident for some time, and identified both locally and provincially.
Emes recalled there’s been two local Business Retention and Expansion studies conducted in the past five years.
“In both of them, employers asked for something like this for their staff, and now we have that,” she noted.
As well, dozens of representatives from various agencies attended a regional planning meeting organized by NCDS last July, and at that time also identified the need for workshops and training available both during the day and in the evening.
Then in February, NCDS was awarded a $403,000 contract by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to improve local accessibility and training focusing on the needs of employers and individuals who wish to improve workplace and essential skills.
The Workforce Literacy and Essential Skills program—one of 33 in Ontario—reflect’s the ministry’s vision of establishing Ontarians as the most-educated people and highly-skilled workforce in North America.
“We really, really need a program like this because it is a stepping stone for people who really have no clue what they want to do, but they’re not college ready,” said Mike Anderson, president of the NCDS board of directors.
“It’s more than just literacy,” he stressed. “There’s a life skills component, there’s computers.
“It’s going to give them a clearer vision and direction, and get them to that point where they say, ‘I want to finish high school to become ‘A’—get them to a point where they’re going to know what they want to do with their life,” Anderson added.
Emes clarified the NCDS Transition Centre (located at 242 Scott St.) and NCDS Career Works and Skills and Employment Source (300 Scott St.) are not the same thing, but the agencies do work hand-in-hand.
“[NCDS Career Works] is an employment centre, and at this point there are two different programs being delivered from that employment centre,” she explained.
“Career Works, who work with the youth, and Skills and Employment, who work with adults, particularly those in the EI system.
“They help them with job searching, résumé writing, cover letters, and things like that,” Emes noted.
“Even there, we saw people who were technologically challenged,” she added. “A lot of them just did not have the computer skills that they need, and computers are a part of literacy.”
Emes said the NCDS Transition Centre is for people who are not ready to go on to post-secondary education, or maybe don’t want to but still need the skills to be effective in today’s workplace.
“We’re working with people trying to pass their GED, with employees trying to upgrade their skills, with people that are preparing to write apprenticeship exams,” she remarked.
“We’re not going to have structured classes,” she stressed. “It’s when you can come, and that’s the reason we’re open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
“If you’re working full-time, you still have the ability to come in the evening.”
Emes noted the NCDS Transition Centre already has been working closely with NCDS Career Works and Skills and Employment Source.
“We’re getting referrals from them,” she said. “It’s to say, ‘Your skills aren’t at a level where they need to be for the career you would like to have.’
“Send them down here. We’ll work with them. When they’re ready to write that résumé and cover letter, then they’ll go back there.’
“We work very closely together. We still go to weekly meetings. We’re a team,” added Emes.
“It would have been perfect if we could have been attached to them, but there was no room.”
Emes said the NCDS Transition Centre, which employs five people (including three instructors to ensure one is on the premises at all times), has been open since early April.
And so, far it’s been going “very well.”
“We’re very pleased with the number of people that we already have as customers,” Emes remarked, adding that being in downtown Fort Frances is the perfect location for them.
“There’s lots of foot traffic and it’s easy access for people,” she reasoned.
The NCDS Transition Centre helps people learn and upgrade computer skills, writing skills, math skills, and more. These services are free of charge to residents of Rainy River District.
Every customer is given a literacy assessment to determine their level, and a training plan is developed for each individual so they can meet the level that will allow them to proceed with their employment or educational goals.
As well, employers with employees who are not performing to the level they would like can refer them to the transition centre.
Services are delivered in a confidential, respectful, and comfortable setting.
For more information, drop by NCDS Transition Centre or Cathy Emes at 274-2666.