Imagine a world that works for everyone
Choices Association of Fort McMurray
Forty-seven years ago, Choices Association of Fort McMurray made it their mission to provide supports for people with disabilities. Today their mission is to provide employment support and expanding opportunities for individuals with barriers and disabilities.
For people living with physical or mental challenges, health issues, mental health issues, learning disabilities, brain injuries, alcohol-related birth defects, or any other issues or conditions, many aspects of daily living become difficult, and the ability to secure and maintain a job is challenging or even impossible. Older citizens and newcomers often find themselves in the same situation…but that’s where Choices comes in.
Executive Director, Allison Pardy, has been with this social profit organization for 12 years. She explains that Choices is an option for anyone who requires assistance due to barriers to employment. “This person could be a mother who is returning to work after several years at home with children, or a person who has difficulty due to a physical disability, a mental illness, or is an older citizen.”
Offering career and employment counseling, training and skill enhancement programs, and an up-to-date job board which lists all local opportunities, the services offered by Choices reflect their values clearly. They believe that:
- Each individual has the right of opportunity to develop his/her innate potential
- The dignity and self-worth of every person shall be recognized and respected
- Each individual shall receive an equal, fair and non-discriminatory service
- Services will be delivered via an individualized approach in an atmosphere of confidentiality, professionalism, accountability and integrity.
Choices receives funding through Alberta Human Services, and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. This funding allows Choices to offer support through the Employment Program, Housing First, and Targeted Initiative for Older Workers.
Through the Employment Program, clients have access to individual employment counseling, resume and cover letter development, interview preparation, job search support, employment readiness coaching which includes stress and time management and conflict resolution, as well as job placement and follow-up support.
Designed for clients whose disabilities range from physical disabilities to those tied to mental illness or learning disabilities, Pardy explains that helping their clients change their own perspectives is often as important as changing the perspectives of employers.
With on-site staff members who speak languages in addition to English, such as French and Spanish, every effort is made to ensure that language barriers are overcome when clients come in to Choices.
For individuals who are capable of employment but do not have sustained employment or perhaps the necessary social skills to enter the workforce, the Housing First program provides one-on-one employment counselling and/or employment readiness workshops with the goal of addressing the issue of breaking barriers to employment readiness and workplace access for homeless individuals who have been newly housed.
Designed to assist individuals with establishing a stable living environment, Housing First empowers them to gain the skills necessary to become self-sufficient.
Alberta Basic Id is another component of the Housing First Program offered by Choices. Individuals meet with the ID Coordinator to review documents required to obtain their basic Alberta identification. Those requiring funding, may receive assistance through Alberta Human Services and the process is completed with a trip to registries.
Targeted Initiative for Older Workers
For unemployed or underemployed workers ages 50 to 64, the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers provides employment assistance services and employability improvement activities, such as skills upgrading and work experience.
Services included in the Initiative include: career decision making assistance to include referrals, skill development to include basic computer training and exposure courses based on need, information guidance for resume and cover letter writing, tapping into the local labour market, self-employment referrals and assistance with completing documentation, job exploration strategies with one-on-one assistance for submitting resumes via the Internet and through cold-calling, employment informational interviews, and job maintenance.
Through the excellent programming offered, Choices has experienced great and rewarding success in their work with the people of Fort McMurray. Pardy gives much credit to the Employment Counsellors and their dedication to the Association’s values.
Exciting opportunities to support Choices’ mandate are available to volunteers who are interested in joining the Board. In addition to gaining valuable work experience, the opportunity to support a mutually respected cause is extremely rewarding. As Pardy explains, though, “The most important qualification is that our volunteers are committed to the people that we serve.” A background in legal, financial or disability sectors are an asset, but the sense of advocacy and a strong commitment to the people that Choices serves are key.
Choices’ high rate of success serves as a reminder that helping to create a fair and inclusive society is exactly what they’re doing, and that a world that works for everyone is an attainable goal.
Choices is located at 10010 Franklin Avenue. For more information, visit choicesfortmcmurray.ca or call 780-791-3009.
By Kerri Leland with files from Buffy Close
Photos by Greg Halinda Photography