What happens when someone experiences a job loss or under-employment? There are many services and programs throughout Windsor-Essex designed to assist during this period of transition. Last year, the Unemployed Help Centre assisted in helping 1,900 people find employment.
As an Employment Counsellor with the Unemployed Help Centre, Shakera Reid-Rathwell specializes in pre-apprenticeship counselling and works with jobseekers, employers, and community members.
Since the age of 12, Shakera knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. Like many of her clients, her career path has not been linear; following her passions from teaching to marketing and now counselling.
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We spoke to Shakera about her work, barriers for employment, and how she helps her clients every day:
What does an average day look like for you?
On a typical day, I get in at around 8:00 / 8:30 and check my emails and phone calls, making sure that important messages are taken care of. The calls and emails set the tone for the day, for example- a client may require coaching because they are on the brink of losing their job. Many clients experience job-loss because of unaddressed barriers they have.
In some instances it may also include coaching employers on how to address barriers with clients or job-related issues that arise as well. No day is the same.
What kind of barriers do clients face?
The barriers they face include a lack of affordable high quality child care, poverty, transportation, mental health issues coming to the surface, like anxiety and depression and discrimination in the labour market, which all continue to create very unbalanced outcomes for many Windsor residents.
It gives me great pleasure to be able to give them direction, support, guidance and meaningful tools to help them in the real world.
How did you start working in this role?
Typically to get into the field as an employment counsellor, you would have to have a degree in the social field or some sort of psychology degree. For me, the route was a bit different. My background is graphic design and marketing. My degree is in business leadership. When I became involved with the Unemployed Help Centre, I quickly learned that there were many different positions here that coincided with the job duties of an employment counsellor.
When I worked as a workshop facilitator, which I was originally employed for, I had the opportunity to assist clients with their job search strategies, preparing their resumes, and preparing for job interviews. While in that role, I was also able to facilitate workshops that used employment tools to help clients find their interests, aptitudes, and abilities for certain careers.
I was also a secretary here. In that role, I was able to refer clients to other community and professional agencies as needed. I was also able to collect labour market information to point them in the direction of certain job opportunities that were available and give them other occupational information as well.
I find that these roles led me to the point where I felt like I was prepared when the opportunity arose to apply for an employment counsellor position. Moving and transitioning into that role became easy as my previous experiences all tied in together.
What skills would benefit an employment counsellor?
I think an employment counsellor should be well organized, a people person and someone who is able to adapt to change. You must be able to adapt your counselling to suit the individual client because every client is unique.
You also have to be empathetic, non-judgmental, and have a positive attitude in order to see the clients’ position / point of view, by listening carefully, not only to what is said, but also how it is said.
Why is Windsor different than other areas for employment counselling?
What makes Windsor a unique place to work in the field are the unique barriers clients face. For example there are many clients who are simply unable to get to work in remote areas due to lack of transportation or lack of access to public transit.
Other unique key challenges include the lack of flexible work arrangements for those wanting part time work and work for persons with disabilities. Windsor also have a large aging workforce with less than post-secondary education. This is a concern for employers looking for skilled workers.
Windsor is still struggling to fill skilled trade positions such as cooks, mold makers and CNC machinist due to the lack of skilled workers.
What advice would you give to someone interested in this job?
Employment counselling isn’t for everyone. I would advise someone who is thinking about this career to do the research. While it is a very fulfilling job, it can also become a very stressful job. When you are dealing with barriers or problems that others are facing, it can take a toll on you. I find that a lot of times when job seekers do come in for our assistance, they are in a very vulnerable and stressful place in their lives. In helping the client overcome the various day to day barriers that they face and effectively supporting their emotional needs, I also need to take care of my own emotional needs. I make sure that I’m taking care of myself, so I can take care of others.
It’s such a fulfilling opportunity, I see myself growing in this job. There are always ways to improve and gain more training to help your clients. That makes all the difference in the world.