UP Skills for Work a Key Tool for Employability

Ambreen Sarai, Economic Reintegration Specialist for the City of Toronto is a big supporter of employability skills programming. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with more boots on the ground than Sarai who manages, among other things, the employability programming across two busy family-based shelters in Toronto. Sarai is running the UP Skills for Work program for her clients.

UP Skills for Work is a program that helps learners develop key employability skills through free workshops. These skills include Motivation, Attitude, Accountability, Presentation, Teamwork, Time Management, Adaptability, Stress Management, and Confidence. The program was developed by ABC Life Literacy Canada with support from founding sponsor Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life.

The first three workbooks and workshops released were Motivation, Attitude, and Accountability. The workshops include topics as: goal setting, how to maintain a good attitude at work and learning how being accountable (or not) can affect your relationship with your boss, coworkers and your career.

Sarai has found that the UP Skills for Work workshops are definitely filling a need and teaching skills that can be used at work, but also at home as life skills. The majority of her clients are immigrant English speaking women many of whom come from Africa as refugees. The barriers to employment are higher for refugees despite the fact that many of her clients have university level intelligence and are highly motivated. They sign up for the UP Skills for Work program because they are looking for employment and want to be competitive in the job market.

“Things like tone and body language can make a huge difference in an interview setting,” said Sarai, “One woman in the Attitude workshop spoke about how if she smiled during an interview in her country, the interviewers would have thought she was unprofessional, whereas here she was being encouraged to smile and be friendly. It goes to show how cultural differences can also be barriers to employment in ways we might not expect.”

Sarai went on to praise the flow and structure of the program and emphasized the benefits of the program workbook which she found to be much more helpful than other programs that she mentioned are passively delivered via PowerPoint. “The workbooks are hands-on, engaging, practical and interactive. The questions encourage personal reflection. For many of my clients this is the first time they have been asked these questions in this way, opening the door to a whole different perspective. Even if we are running out of time I always make sure to have them do the pledge at the end. I love that it is presented in such a non-threatening way and that it can be private; just a written promise to yourself to work on an aspect of self-improvement. It is personal and private and something that they hold themselves accountable to.”

When asked which soft skill her clients are in the greatest need of improving, without hesitation, Sarai answered Time Management. She was thrilled to learn that Time Management, along with Presentation and Teamwork are the next three workshops that will be added to program this fall. “That’s amazing! I will definitely offer a six-week program to my clients covering each of the UP Skills for Work workbooks.”

To find out more about UP Skills for Work, to sign up to host a workshop, or to access free resources, visit upskillsforwork.ca