Sunday April 20, 2014



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Training for success

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Derek Bedry Photo

Helen Dewar gives the participants of Minerva Foundation's Helping Women Work an assignment to help them learn employability skills Monday.

The women participating in a free employment skills workshop this week are losing their fears about the job market.

Unemployed or underemployed women are learning resume writing, interview skills and career advice at Helping Women Work, a program by the Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women under their Combining Our Strength series in partnership with the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Centre. Those skills are about more than just getting work, said workshop participant Lauren Odendahl, 23.

“I’ve already gotten a lot out of it, it’s helping me even just figure out who I am,” Odendahl said. “Finding out the direction and the career that I want. I don’t want to just bounce from job to job like before, which is really common in Fort St. John. It’s actually helping me find goals and set them and reach them.

A single mom, Odendahl wants to set a strong example for her two-year-old daughter as well as provide for her with a steady career.

“I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something. I want to get out and do something that makes me feel proud of what I’m doing that isn’t just raising my kid. There’s more to me than a mom,” she said. “I think it’s a really good example because it shows you can get whatever you want, you just have to work for it. I don’t want that kid that everything is handed to them, I want to show you have to work for what you get. “

Joanne Lindstrom, 23, added the program can help women find employment while coping with learning disabilities. Lindstrom said she is dyslexic and has some fetal alcohol effects.

“A lot of the women here are so resourceful, it’s pretty crazy,” Lindstrom said. “When we were talking about what we want to do, everyone was giving out numbers and contact information for people out there than can help us get a foot in the door. I think I am going to walk out of this program with a better idea of who I am and what I’m working for. It’s great.”

Fort St. John Minerva volunteer Holly Hanson took courses herself two years ago, and said she now puts in up to 20 hours a week leading up to new initiatives so she can give something back.

“We have seen some really amazing blossoming in those four days,” Hanson said, adding that Lauren was one of many outstanding participants.

“She needed some direction. Through this she found out who she is and she actually started counselling some of the other women,” Hanson said. “We get to sit and watch her during the day, where she’ll all of a sudden just pop up and go ‘What about this,’ and you just see this excitement in her. It’s beautiful, the transformations are phenomenal.”

Lisa Tallio, the director of Minerva’s Combining Our Strengths Aboriginal initiative, said Fort St. John women in particular often find they will need more education.

“A typical outcome of the Helping Women Work program in Vancouver is employment,” Tallio said. “But what we’re seeing here in this community is career planning and also identification of more education. So women learn about their work life preferences and then they’re making some pretty big decisions about where they’re going to go and then committing to it.”

She said she hopes this first year of workshops will raise plenty of interest in future.

“I hope to bring about more awareness of what the Minerva Foundation does in Fort St. John so we don’t have to rely so heavily on one volunteer. I’d really like to see all these other women come do what Holly has done,” Tallio said. “I can work in these communities if there’s interest but I can’t bring about that interest or sustain it on my own. I want to communicate the sense of responsibility. Really I just want these women to be available to speak about their experience.”


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