Emily Steen was out of work for three years, first because of medical issues and then because she was having trouble getting back into the workforce last July.
Then, she found out about Edge, a pilot program that started last October for young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 who are having difficulties getting off income assistance.
“When ... you’re trying to find a job after three years out of the market, you run into a lot of rejection because there are lots of people out there with the same amount of experience as you who don’t have a three-year gap on their resume,” the 25-year-old Wolfville resident said Friday at the program’s official launch in Kenvtille.
“It’s really hard to find someone to give you a chance to get back into the job market.”
She had been working retail and food services before her medical issues arose. But after getting into the Edge program, she was hired part-time this week at a retail store in New Minas.
That, Steen said, was a huge relief.
Career counsellors with the income assistance program directed her to Edge. She said she found great support from facilitators and other participants, who she said will be her friends long after the program is over.
The program allowed her to take a first-aid course, do mock interviews, find different ways to look for jobs, spruce up her resume and learn to write cover letters.
Steen is hoping retail clothing experience will help her in her goal to create a plus-size clothing line and open a store in which to sell it.
She said she likely wouldn’t be working yet if not for the program.
“I was very depressed, (in) despair, I felt like I had no hope and I would never find a job again,” she said. “It was just wasted effort any time I tried to put out a resume or went to an interview, because I felt like no matter what I did, I would be rejected.”
She said the program gave her a big boost.
“If I hadn’t (contacted the program) I don’t know where I’d be right now ... probably sitting at home ‘depressed, wishing that I could find a job instead of sitting here saying ‘I have a job.’ ”
The pilot program is running in Kentville through Community INC. and The Portal Youth Centre, and in Halifax Regional Municipality through MetroWorks. The province describes it as a job search and readiness program, and says it’s the first of its kind in Nova Scotia.
The program has funding of $1 million. Some of that subsidizes wages for employers who hire people, but not all employers take the money, which is is capped at $6,500.
Most people spend three months working in the program before a three-month job placement.
Premier Stephen McNeil said he expects Edge will expand across the province after the pilot. He said it’s different from other programs because it brings community partners together in one place to “provide a wraparound service and support. Part of it, too, is having a mentoring program.”
He said many young people come to the government for income resistance as a last resort.
“They want an opportunity to fulfil their own lives, they want an opportunity to be given a hand up, they want an opportunity to chase their own dreams and ambitions.”