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Thursday, 16 July 2015 06:05

Province promises no change to service availability after Swift Current Labour Market Services office closes

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The Can-Sask Labour Market Services (LMS) office in Swift Current will close in August, but according to the provincial government, it will have no impact on service availability.

 


Alastair MacFadden, the assistant deputy minister of Labour Market Development with the Ministry of the Economy, said the office closure will be implemented Aug. 21. The provincial government will also close three other LMS offices in Fort Qu’Appelle, Humboldt and Nipawin.
“We’re making a change in how services are offered in those communities where we’ve seen reduced demand for service,” he mentioned. “So the intent is to maintain the availability of services to the employers and job seekers in those centres, but we want to do it in the most effective and efficient way and we’re trying to make use of the limited resources. Over the last 10 years, the service demand has dropped in these locations and that provides some other rationale for moving to a different format.”
There are currently 19 LMS offices across the province and three of those locations  — Creighton, Kindersley and Weyburn — offer in-person service on an itinerant basis.
“That means that when a person needs service they’re able to have access to one-on-one support by appointment,” MacFadden explained.
Staff at the LMS offices provide information on career and employment services and programs to people. They will support users of this service to plan career paths, provide information on work skills that are in demand and programs to reach career goals, and assist them with job searches, resumé writing and interview skills.
“An office like Swift Current and our other locations would have access to computers so that people can not just search for a job, but they can prepare their resumé and print it off, and then with the support of staff they can get advice on their career plan or their training plan,” he explained. “So it’s our intend that there remains access to the same services, but it will be done on demand through appointment.”
After the closure of the Swift Current office the nearest LMS office will be in Moose Jaw, but people will still be able to have their appointments in Swift Current.
“We’re not in any way trying to introduce hardship,” MacFadden said. “We’re trying to be as efficient as we can and so the intent is to provide those services on demand.”
He noted services provided through the LMS offices are used by job seekers and employers. After this change at the Swift Current location, the employers in the area will continue to have access to SaskJobs through the internet, by phone and fax. Job seekers will continue to have access to online and telephone assistance for job search and career planning as well as information about ministry programs and services.
“We’ll provide personalized service on request and by appointment,” he said. “What we’re working toward is establishing job search resource centres with community partners so that people can still access a computer and equipment so that they can do that independent job search.”
According to MacFadden, the ministry considers information about client traffic, service volumes, contract activity and the needs of employers when decisions are made about how services are delivered.
“The demand for services in these centres has shifted as the unemployment rate has stayed low,” he said. “Many of the people who are job ready rely on the online tools that are available through things like SaskJobs. We track the hits to that website and we see that most of our job seekers in the province are going online. They’re not coming in for in-person service.”
He added the relatively low unemployment level means job seekers require a more specific level of service.
“We contract with community organizations to provide some of those more specialized services,” he said.
According to Statistics Canada data the unemployment rate in Saskatchewan was 4.7 per cent in June compared to 4.9 per cent in May. Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate is the lowest among all provinces, but recent figures are marginally higher than before. The unemployment rate was 3.9 per cent in June 2014 and 3.7 per cent in May 2014.
The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) has criticized the provincial government’s decision to close the four offices.
“At a time when we are experiencing a slowdown in the oil patch, and potentially heading into a drought year, it doesn’t make sense to cut support and services to people — particularly in rural communities — who want to work, but need a little help to make that happen,” SGEU President Bob Bymoen said in a media release.
The union is concerned over the loss of one-on-one personalized service and that support services will not be available on short notice.
“Telephone counselling might be the only option left to many rural people, but frontline workers say that approach just doesn’t adequately meet the often complex needs of clients,” Bymoen mentioned. “You need a more personal connection with people to provide a meaningful human service.”
The closure of the four offices will influence 10 permanent employees, including four permanent staff members in Swift Current.
“Embedded in the collective agreement with the SGEU are included conditions that support the rights of those workers so that they have opportunities in other roles in government,” MacFadden said.
The Swift Current and District Chamber of Commerce has been in contact with the Ministry of the Economy to obtain information about the closure of the Swift Current office.
“It’s never great to see jobs lost in our community, but it’s also good to see that the government is taking a responsible role and if there is an office that is being underutilized maybe it’s the right decision,” outgoing Chamber CEO Darla Lindbjerg said. “They have the experts and they have the data, so I’m trusting that they’re making the right call.”
She added  the Chamber is always willing to provide assistance to people who are looking for employment in the Swift Current area.
“We have been helping, not often because of our low unemployment rate, but if someone walks in and says, ‘I’m looking for a job’,;we’ll do our best through the Chamber to help them locate something,” she said. “We’re always looking to help grow and improve the community.”
Local businesses are facing a challenge to find employees due to the low unemployment rate in the Swift Current area.
“It’s been very difficult to attract people to our community,” she said. “So from the Chamber’s perspective that’s one of the main drivers for us is how can we get people here and how can we keep them here. Once they come here it doesn’t seem to be an issue for them to find employment because there are so many businesses looking to hire.”
She is uncertain about the impact of the closure of the LMS office in Swift Current on businesses.
“That I have a tough time commenting on because I don’t hear about the businesses going through the job centre,” Lindbjerg said. “I hear them using SaskJobs.ca a lot, but that’s still available.”
She is encouraged by the Ministry of the Economy’s intention to continue to provide career and employment programs and services in the community even though there will not be full-time staff present in Swift Current.
“The provincial government has told us they will continue to make sure there is a resource centre in Swift Current with a computer, printer and phone for people to use in their job search or to access the government’s online services in case they don’t otherwise have access to a computer or a phone,” she said.
The Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre is one of the Ministry of the Economy’s local service providers and its contract is currently administered through the LMS office in Swift Current.
The Newcomer Welcome Centre has already received a letter from the Ministry of the Economy about the changes to the local office. Welcome Centre Executive Director Icasiana de Gala was also scheduled to have a meeting with ministry staff.
The most immediate change for the Welcome Centre will be on an administrative level.
“LMS is very important,” de Gala said. “They are the holder of our contract. So we report directly to the office here. Now we will be reporting to Moose Jaw.”
The Welcome Centre has been referring newcomers to the LMS office in Swift Current when they require assistance with their resumés or with preparation for job interviews. Newcomers have been able to access funding for short training programs at the college through this office.
“So it’s so easy to refer them there and then for them to meet personally with people in LMS and talk about whether they would qualify for a program or not,” she said. “Now of course with newcomers its always better to have that face to face communication than just over the phone. … The letter that we received states that the services will still be available.”
The Welcome Centre has developed a close relationship with the LMS office in Swift Current. During the past year a LMS staff member has been visiting the Welcome Centre office to provide advice to newcomers.
“It’s very effective,” de Gala said. “They come here, meet with the LMS person and then eventually the newcomers become familiar with the service. ... We received word from LMS that their newcomer clients have increased actually as a result of that because we were able to develop the trust … The first meeting is here, but then the next meetings will be at their office over there.”
In the past the provincial government has funded a part-time position for an unemployment services provider at the Welcome Centre. The funding for that position ended in 2011, but it helped the Welcome Centre to develop good relationships with employers.
de Gala said the Welcome Centre will continue to work with the Ministry of the Economy to ensure  newcomers have access to these government services.

Read 2574 times Last modified on Wednesday, 15 July 2015 16:09