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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Hit them with your best shot

Devise a targeted job search with the aid of employment centres

By David Chilton
Special to The Toronto Sun

In 1998, Peter Procak found himself without a job. When an employee he had replaced on a short-term contract returned to work, he found himself having to explore new options. Procak's mind was made up for him by Human Resources Development Canada, which directed him to the Progress Career Planning Centre (PCPC) in Scarborough, Ont., part of the Progress Career Planning Institute (PCPI).

There, Procak attended seminars brushing up on such crucial job finding skills as resume writing and personal interviews. These skills helped him then, and he still uses them now to hire staff at UPS Supply Chain Solutions in Mississauga, where he is senior manager of national operations.

"PCPI gave us access to a lot of media, from telephones to fax machines to computers," Procak says. "Networking was a big part of it too. Looking for work is a job. It's a full-time job and I think that's one of the things they instilled in us."

It took Procak three months to find his first job at UPS. During that time, he took part in several comprehensive seminars, courses and workshops at government-funded agencies located throughout the city.

Every agency covers the basics of resume writing, cover letters, cold calling, phones, faxes and computer instruction for the EI recipient or others who qualify, but that's not the half of it. Each of them has also developed expertise in certain areas.
With the job search skills he leared through the Progress Career Planning Centre, Peter Procak was able to land a job at UPS Supply Chain Solutions in Mississauga, where he's now senior manager of national operations.

PCPC president Rhonda Singer says the organization offers clients a chance to learn more about themselves.

"If they take advantage of what we offer, they have the opportunity to step outside of themselves and look at new possibilities," Singer says. "I think that's important to develop some confidence and to get some support."

A strong support network can also be found at Accessible Community Counselling and Employment Services, of no small matter for its large number of its foreign-trained clients.

With so many of them having obtained their qualifications abroad, the agency at 489 College St. has developed some tailored programs, says senior manager Irene Sihvonen.

"We've evolved a whole array of topics that are targeted at internationally educated professionals and tradespeople," Sihvonen says. "There are workshops that we have about international credentials, how to have them assessed and where.

We've evolved some sector specific information for the professions, for engineers, accountants and health-care professionals."

ACCES also runs the Talk English Cafe, a project that has won awards for its innovation. Sihvonen says many of her clients were learning English theory, but told counsellors they wanted more practice at speaking. In an informal setting, and with the help of an instructor, learners can practice conversation and workplace communication at the cafe.
Rhonda Singer (left), president of the Progress Career Planning Centre, and Irene Sihvonen, senior manager of Accessible Community Counselling and Employment services, are part of a broad network of employment centres in the city.

At St. Stephen's Community House employment centre at 1415 Bathurst St., the emphasis is getting young people ages 16 to 29 into the workforce. Randy Heasman, director of employment and training, says St. Stephen's offers a battery of workshops and training for the young job seeker, referrals to social services, if they are warranted, and even free voice mailboxes and bus tickets.

Just as important are St. Stephen's links to employers. As Heasman points out, there's not much use providing counselling without the prospect of a job at the end of it.

"We're actually getting people jobs," he says, noting that about 65% of the young people who sign on with St. Stephen's find work.

Meanwhile, Operation Springboard helps both adults and youth. Some of them are economically disadvantaged, says Jasmine Artis, supervisor of the office at 2 Carlton St. -- another office at 1464 Midland Ave. in Scarborough handles young people -- and some of them are at their wits' end.

As a consequence, Artis says, both offices spend a lot of time with their clients on personal management and pre-employment preparation.

"We go one to one with clients," Artis says. "We try to make sure that a client is not set up for failure." None of the agencies do. That's why they should be as much a part of the job seeker's tool kit as a sharp resume, company knowledge and questions of their own.

(Reach freelancer David Chilton at

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