Sunday, November 16, 2008

Part One: Goals & Objectives

As we have stated in a number of our blog entries, the impact workfare has had on employers is significant. True, the program gives managers a source of cheap labor, but also true, it puts the employer in a difficult position regarding whether the staff member actually works out. There is a great deal of complexity to this issue, because while the “cheap labor” piece is certainly a reality, so to is the fact that many employees involved in the workfare program are not conducive to the requirements of the positions assigned to them.

Looking at this subject through a systemic viewpoint, one can see what areas have a direct impact on a worker’s suitability. Take education for example, this is an element that has massive ramifications for the individual and the opportunities that are available to them. Many of those involved in workfare do not have transferable skills, as many have not completed high school or university. The assistance program does not prepare workfare recipients for meaningful employment (jobs that KEEP them employed and allow the said person to support his or her family).

Another important factor is our country's primary language. Given that we are social beings and that communication is our primary means of interaction, language is a major facet in being "successful" in society. For those whose first language is one other than English, securing meaningful employment can be a major problem. What about those who are mentally ill, or who suffer from an ailment that compromises their job possibilities in a similar manner? As it is with many who are living with mental illness, individuals often suffer from a myriad of challenges ~ all of which create barriers to employment.

Bringing all this together, an alternative to current workfare policies would be the provision of additional resources to the recipient over a specific period of time. These resources would include access to childcare, employment counseling, supportive counseling (likely through the position's employee assistance program), and most importantly, skills training. The skills training would be through a institution such as Fanshawe College (which trains men and women for employment in trade arenas such as nursing, support work, Tool & Dye, etc.).