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Vancouver non-profit ‘can’t create jobs fast enough’ for Downtown Eastside residents

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Vancouver non-profit connecting people with employment
Vancouver non-profit Mission Possible says its clients are willing workers who can help fill some of the job vacancies impacting many businesses. Christa Dao reports. – Jun 7, 2022

While much of the province wades through a labour shortage, a Vancouver non-profit claims it “can’t create jobs fast enough” to meet the demand from prospective employees.

Mission Possible, based in the Downtown Eastside, works to support residents’ transition back into the mainstream labour force by offering them training, coaching and work.

Prior to the pandemic, it saw an average of 400 applicants per year, said executive director Matthew Smedley. In the past year, however, that swelled to more than 600 — an increase of over 50 per cent.

“We can’t create jobs fast enough,” Smedley told Global News on Tuesday.

“We need to grow as an organization, we need to raise more funds to create more opportunities so that more people in this community can have access to employment.”

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Mission Possible offers participants training through its employment readiness program, and paid jobs through its cleaning and community watch programs. It also partners with small businesses, including grocery stores and maintenance service providers, who are willing to offer “a little extra support” to those making a workforce transition.

“We really recognize that people still have real challenges moving into mainstream employment,” Smedley explained.

“A lot of that is discriminatory practices, but it’s also helping people be able to navigate that, have the right support and recent experience on their resume, and a reference to really vouch for them.”

The non-profit often works alongside those experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges or substance use disorders, whose resume “gaps” are stigmatized in the workforce, he added.

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Mission Possible “CleanTeam” staffer Jacqueline Brooks spoke highly of the programs on Tuesday.

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She previously worked as a cleaner at the BC Children’s Hospital, but said she found it too stressful, and Mission Possible has supported her in the interim. Brooks previously lived in the Downtown Eastside.

“It’s nice to get to know the people, get to know how you can help,” she said. “They’ve got to have more companies like this, to help people transition to the working world. It’s not as easy as you might think.”

Brooks said she hasn’t really had a resume in more than 20 years, and Mission Possible is helping her put one together. They also help with clothing, housing and food if needed, she added.

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Smedley said businesses in need of employees can make “really simple” changes to their hiring processes to make them more inclusive for the people Mission Possible supports.

“People who are really motivated to work, people who are just incredible people, have lots of skills and ability, but are often just overshadowed because of the experiences they’ve had in their lives,” he said.

“Giving people that opportunity not only leads to a great employee but also will be transformational for the business itself.”

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According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), as of December last year, 59 per cent of small businesses in B.C. were experiencing a labour shortage — the fourth-highest rate in Canada.

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