Times Change Women's Employment Service
(5 members – Cynthia Downey, Karen Hoffmann-Zak, Kary McIntosh, Shiva Maleki, Song Sha.)
Each member of The Collective at the Times Change Women’s Employment Service plays an important role of leader, responsible for making critical decisions and strategically prioritizing the agency’s future goals as well as the double-duty honour of being front line workers (counsellors, job developers, coordinators and IT professionals).
When the pandemic hit, Times Change closed its physical doors for everyone’s safety, but the team immediately pivoted to offer all their services and supports remotely, recognizing the need for continued care for women who had to access essential employment assistance: women in low-wage, precarious jobs who were deeply affected by lay-offs when COVID forced the economy into lockdown. During this challenging time, this team collaborated effectively to identify technologies needed to provide remote workshops to clients, adapted their workshop content to an online format and supported their clients in the use of technology like Zoom for job interviews. To provide continuous care to their clients, they mobilized collectively and quickly to ensure women could access their essential employment services with a holistic response, checking in on their client’s wellbeing and immediate needs first, then connecting them to other resources in the community, to help address their life stabilization needs such as housing and food insecurity and access to devices and technology support.
During this time the team also identified wider systemic barriers for women exacerbated by the pandemic, like the lack of exposure to more in-demand sustainable occupations like in the tech field. The team leveraged corporate and community partnerships to jointly help women thrive and enhance their digital literacy during the pandemic to better prepared women who could not afford a traditional education for better-paying (and typically more stable) STEM careers. as They also engaged well as engaging employers to make commitments to diversity and inclusion in their workplaces, particularly in the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women.
The Collective has made significant contributions to provide women the knowledge, confidence, and connections to find success, all while navigating the most challenging time of their lives over the pandemic. Like One of their clients, a 20 year stay at home mom for 20 years, found herself a single parent to five children without a home or a livelihood at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was lost, felt disconnected from the job market, and uncertain of how her own skills and experiences could help her find not just a meaningful job. She participated in Times Change’s Career Planning Workshop and guided by the facilitator, emerged with a clear sense of what her ideal job would be and how it would match with her strengths and needs. It helped bolster her confidence overall and helped secure a job and support her family.