By Misty Williams

As the Indigenous Outreach Worker and Employment Counselor at WorkBC Centre Duncan & Ladysmith, I provide WorkBC Employment Services to the Malahat First Nation, Cowichan Tribes, Penelakut, Lyackson, Stu’zuminus, Halalt and Lake Cowichan First Nation.

A large part of my role in outreach has me going into community to assist in alleviating some of the barriers that impact First Nations. Many of the Nations are in remote and rural areas and have limited access to transportation, communications and internet access. By going out into community I can bring WorkBC Services directly to them. We can provide employment workshops, host info sessions and sign-up clients for services. Many of our clients participate in our provincially funded programs that lead them to sustainable employment. We partner with other local Indigenous organizations to ensure our clients are receiving the full benefit that will lead them to be successful with their endeavours towards sustainable employment. By partnering with local economic ventures, we can find opportunities for clients and help them work towards obtaining the necessary skills training that allows them to be successful in our local economy.

During the month of September WorkBC Centres celebrate B.C.’s Disability Employment Month – this gives us a chance to highlight the work we do to support our community, and to promote other inclusive organisations that do great work in Cowichan and Ladysmith. We pride ourselves on the range of supports we provide, including specialized supports to help people with disabilities who may want to volunteer or work to make an earning. Our specialized assessments can help clients with a variety of barriers harness their full potential. We assist with connections to employers that provide accommodations, creating an inclusive environment where people thrive with the skillsets they possess.

At our centre we have created an award for local employers who show excellence in their inclusive hiring practices – the WorkBC Centre Diversity Award for Leadership in Inclusion. We recognize employers who create a safe and nurturing work environment for individuals who may have experienced unsafe work environments in the past. A safe environment, physically and culturally, is instrumental to retaining skilled labor. Even one negative experience can colour a person’s perspective resulting in that individual feeling very reluctant to move forward in that employment field. This is why my colleagues and I want to acknowledge the employers who are trying to do things differently. BCIB is one of the organizations I selected this year.

I appreciate BCIB’s ROI training. At first, I thought it stood for ‘Return on Investment’ but, in fact, stands for Respectful Onsite Initiative. Return on Investment is a good way to describe it though, as it is truly about creating an aware and respectful work environment. We see the benefits it reaps, helping to create an equitable, safe, and diverse jobsite.

The impact of an inclusive approach to work is noticeable. I see firsthand how some of our clients come in very shy and quiet, but after working with us for a while, it warms my heart to see their confidence grow. I love my job; it is my reason for getting up every morning because I see the positive impact on other people’s lives. It is so fulfilling when you get to see people follow their dreams.

Misty is an Indigenous Outreach Employment Counsellor with WorkBC Centre Duncan & Ladysmith. She works with BCIB to help find people opportunities with the Cowichan District Hospital Replacement Project.