Hanging just inside Work BC’s new Smithers office is a giant triangle—the kind you might ring for dinner on a family farm.
“We clang it like crazy when somebody gets a job,” says director Cheryl Ann Stahel. At the old employment office, she said, “If I was on the phone with somebody in Burns Lake and that bell went off, the people in Burns Lake would be cheering, ‘Yeah!’”
“It’s a fun way to bring people together.”
Work BC opened its doors April 2 at the corner of Main Street and Highway 16. It’s the most visible street corner in Smithers, and Stahel said the location is paying off already.
“We’ve noticed people walking by, doing a double-take and wondering, ‘Oh, what’s in there?’ And the third time they walk by, they come in.”
Inside, job seekers will find a bright, well-lit resource centre in what was the old Heartstrings furniture showroom. To one side are phones, computers, a scanner, fax and printer that anyone looking for a job can sign up to use for free.
Aside from a new resource centre, workshop rooms and offices for their six staff, Stahel said that is the biggest change at Work BC—the ability to help any job seeker or recruiter who wants to drop in.
Previously, Smithers employment services were divided between a handful of providers, and Stahel only had funding to serve people receiving income assistance or disability services.
For people who didn’t fit those categories, Stahel said, “We’d have to say ‘Go to the library.’ Now we say, ‘Come on in.’”
Income assistance and disability services continue at Work BC, Stahel said, but the office also handles several others, from employment insurance to life skills training and wage subsidy programs.
“What they’ve tried to do is make it a one-stop shop,” she said.
That same approach will apply to 72 Work BC offices opening up across B.C., a move the provincial government hopes will reduce costs while make it easier to connect people with employment.
As well as drop-in services, Stahel said people can sign up to meet one-on-one with case managers or join one of more than fifty free workshops that everything from resume tips to local labour market information.
Having a single employment office also gives Work BC more options as a recruiter, Stahel said, noting that they’ve already had several visits from Bulkley Valley employers.
Stahel said Work BC is promoting their late Wednesday nights as a prime time for business operators.
Stahel says Work BC staff will also get well outside the office.
For the first time, advisors will make regular visits to Fort Babine and expand services to people living in remote areas from Evelyn to Topley.
Smithers itself is still a good bet, Stahel said. “We don’t depend on the resource sector or the tourism sector alone.”