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Essential Skills for Atlantic Fisheries project underway in Barrington

Seven people in the Barrington area who have been previously unemployed are on the verge of full-time employment through enrolment in the federally funded project Essential Skills for Atlantic Fisheries (ESAF).

The project was created to address the labour market and workforce challenges employers face in the fisheries sector in Atlantic Canada. Led by the N.B. Literacy Coalition, literacy alliances and councils in the other three Atlantic provinces are also involved as well as community advisory groups comprised of local employers in the fishing industry along with social and community organizations, who help identify and recruit project participants and access community resources .

In Nova Scotia, Acadian Seaplants and Seastar Seafoods in Shelburne County have partnered with Literacy Nova Scotia to deliver the first of two cohorts of the project in this province.

The project includes six weeks of classroom essential and employability skills training for participants recommended by Department of Community Services and Employment Nova Scotia to fill job vacancies, followed by six weeks on-the-job training, then full-time employment.

Mentor training is also given to supervisors within the participating companies, said Colin Bawn, project co-ordinator. “We gave mentor training so they will understand what essential skills and employability skills are and then they can mentor their employees within their plant. We did that because we want it to be sustainable… what we’re doing is providing some sustainability and when we leave, we’re providing supervisors and managers with the skills to continue the work.”

The classroom portion of the project has wrapped up. Participants started the on-the-job training portion on April 1 and, upon succeeding with that, they will be full-time employees of the two companies, said Bawn.

“Once this one wraps up, we’ll get some feedback, figure out things that we did well, things we didn’t do so well, and then we’ll be opening another cohort,” said Bawn. “We’re not sure when that’s going to happen. It all depends on the season of the (fishing) sector” that will be involved.

With Seastar primarily processing salt fish and Acadian Seaplants growing seaweed, “their seasons were very similar so if we get in with employers doing lobster or something like that the season may change,” said Bawn. The second cohort will be done within the next year and can take a maximum of 12 participants.

As for employers wanting to participate in the second unit of the project, Bawn said he didn’t think there would be a problem finding willing participants. “It won’t be an issue to find employers, for sure. They’re all looking for people to work,” he said.

The employer’s role in the project is to identify vacant entry-level positions, participate in a workplace needs assessment and select supervisors or middle managers to participate in the training. The project covers the cost of the workplace needs assessment and training. The employer is also responsible to allow the selected manager time to participate in training and paying 50 per cent of the wages for the work placement period.

The payback is an increased pool of skilled labour, improved essential skills for unemployed people and for managers, improved recruitment, retention, job performance, employee morale, efficiencies and productivity.

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