Trent Ernst, Editor
The Tumbler Ridge Employment Needs Development Services (TRENDS) Office is closing.
The office opened in December, 2001 to help people find work in the Tumbler Ridge area, as well as find employment training and serve other employment needs.
The BC Government, after a two and a half year consultation revamped their Employment Assistant Programs into the new “Employment Program For BC”. Employment services are now divided into 98 “catchment areas”, and the employment services offices will be rebranded as “Work BC Employment Service Centres.”
Under the new program, the entire South Peace is one catchment area, with a single contractor providing services to Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe, Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge.
The new program will begin on April 2 of this year. The successful service provider for the Dawson Creek catchment area is Dawson Creek Catholic Social Services (DCCSS). Laurie Patterson is the Executive Director for the DCCSS. She says that lack of funding means that Tumbler Ridge will not have an office, but is classified as a “Rural Remote Service Area.”
“I’ll be right up front with you,” says Patterson. “Ideally, we’d like to have maintained an office in Tumbler Ridge. I was faced with the decision: ‘do we put an office in Chetwynd or Tumbler Ridge?’ It was a difficult decision. We decided ultimately to keep an office in Chetwynd, because of the people, the demographics, and the community. In terms of population, the numbers are still higher in Chetwynd. ”
Patterson says she had a discussion with Jan Legaspi, who held the contract for TRENDS until the previous contract ended in December. “We all knew changes were coming. Before we even knew what this would look like, I had a discussion with Jan, but she said she wasn’t staying in the business.”
For Tumbler Ridge job seekers, it means that to access employment services, they will either have to go to Dawson Creek or Chetwynd, or contact the office by phone or email, or check out the job board at http://www.jobsearchonline.bc.ca/. “Definitely our website is a key to the service,” says Patterson. “We have a lot of people in Dawson and Chetwynd who just go into the website.”
Sherri-Lynn Hewitt, the Employment Councillor at TRENDS says the loss of a local job office will have a negative impact on the community. “A lot of people think the mines are desperate, and all they need to do is put in their application. But that’s not the case. People come in here and we can help them get their resume the way the mines want to see it.”
Hewitt says the lack of an office in Tumbler Ridge will make it difficult for job seekers who come into town. “We have computers, a fax, a phone….will people have to drive to Dawson just to make a fax.”
Hewitt acknowledges that job seekers will be able to go to the library and use the computers there. “The trouble is, a lot of our clients have no computer skills. Here we can help them navigate and help them with job searches. I don’t think the library has the resources to help all these people on a one-to-one basis.”
More importantly, says Hewitt, what is being lost is that human contact. “We get a lot of people here who are discouraged. It’s important to have someone here who can say ‘keep going. You’re not alone.’ You don’t build relationships like that over the phone.”
Patterson acknowledges that the lack of a local office in Tumbler Ridge isn’t the best situation, but that they’re doing the best they can with the resources they have. “This is a big responsibility, a big contract and a big area. It was an awful lot of back and forth. One of the biggest concerns we had was: ‘Howe can we service the area best with what we have?’
“If you look at the website, we already have Tumbler Ridge employers posting to our job site. We have referred people to the mine. We have hosted job fairs in Chetwynd and in Dawson with the mines. We’re not experts in Tumbler Ridge, but definitely something that we, as a service provider, will be doing, is getting familiar with in Tumbler Ridge.”