New Opportunities for Work program participating organizations include the Nova Scotia Works Centre in Port Hawkesbury.

HALIFAX: A new approach to connecting people from underrepresented groups to jobs in their field is having great success.

The New Opportunities for Work program was co-developed in 2017 by the Centre for Employment Innovation with StFX University and community partners, on behalf of government.

In just a few months, the program has connected 170 people to 104 workplaces, surpassing its goal of helping 150 people.

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“I see the program as a great opportunity to gain employment for those who are unemployed and looking to broaden their horizons, said Dana Upshaw, a participant in the program at Workplace Essentials in Port Williams, Kings County. “The benefit of working locally and not having to look elsewhere for work is the biggest highlight for me. The process was quick and I was working at my new job within a few weeks.

“My time at Workplace Essentials has been informative and I’m comfortable being part of their team. I appreciate the opportunity and work hard to be an asset.”

Government’s $10 million investment in the program was highlighted on February 26 at events at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre and the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association in Kentville.

New Opportunities for Work program participating organizations include the Nova Scotia Works Centre in Port Hawkesbury

The New Opportunities for Work program is unique in its design, and provides many benefits to both the employer and participant: higher participant wage ($15/hour minimum); higher employer wage subsidy ($10.50/hour maximum); two-year subsidy period; wrap-around supports and training for participants; support and training for employers; and ongoing evaluation and research.

“We are thrilled to be part of such a valuable program,” said Phil Davison, director of StFX University’s extension department, the parent organization of the Centre for Employment Innovation. “It has been a unique opportunity to work with our stakeholders, while undertaking developmental research about the outcomes of the initiative, and most importantly, while having a direct and immediately measurable impact in communities across the province.

“It’s important that we address workforce development in a new way – one that builds on our assets and strengths. The centre has the staff, partnerships and mandate to provide the innovative approaches needed to achieve this goal.”

The centre has agreements with 10 community-based organizations to connect participants with meaningful employment.

“This program is helping to bridge the gap between people who are underrepresented in our workforce and Nova Scotia employers who need trained workers,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Derek Mombourquette, on behalf of Labour and Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis. “The uptake and initial success of this program demonstrates why it’s important to pursue new ideas that will increase employment and grow our economy.”

To support an inclusive workforce, the program works with First Nations, African Nova Scotians, racially visible people, Nova Scotians on Employment Support and Income Assistance, persons with a disability, and workers over 55 years of age.

Centre for Employment Innovation is part of the employment service system which also includes Nova Scotia Works Centres, Nova Scotia Career Development Association, Labour and Advanced Education and Employment Nova Scotia.