By Emily Sawchyn
Musquodoboit Harbour’s Old School Community has been bustling with activity and newly motivated individuals, thanks to funding provided by the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy (YESS). The program’s second group started last fall and ended in January.
The program works like a full-time job, with an interview process selecting the participants, and youths between 15-30 who aren’t working, underemployed, not on EI, and generally locally based are all encouraged to join.
“Monday to Thursday, participants are here from morning to afternoon like a workday, in the classroom, community, and online participation,” said Kathy Spearing, the Lead Employment Trainer of the program. “Our rounded schedule includes education and employment opportunities online and in-person, and we have many guest speakers and field trips.”
A couple of the participants agreed to share their YESS experience with the Cooperator. Benjamin Stewart and Kyla Davidson enthusiastically recommended the program.
“For me,” said Stewart, “it was an opportunity to get back into learning and upscale my resume. It was nice to connect with people again, what with COVID rampant. I was lost in what direction I wanted to take in personal life and career. YESS gave me more direction, confidence and self esteem.”
Stewart’s own film business, Weird Wolf Productions, became refined and improved through the program. “I had just started my business when COVID hit, and I was hit hard. Thanks to the connections the program brought me, I got to work with Snowy River Farms and made videos for them. Getting back behind the camera felt so good – I no longer feel so powerless.”
Stewart’s favourite part of the program was the opportunity to work with mentors and instructors. “They met us and catered to each of our own personal goals. That brought a lot of value, made us all feel special and validated and heard. They gave us the tools where we could do anything with our ideas.”
The program also led him to his partner, Kyla Davidson. Davidson had a similar experience – down on her luck from a work injury, she was unsure of where to go next. “I’m new to the area, so this locally focused experience was great for me. I never knew about the Deanery, and I loved Memory Lane; now I volunteer there. It was also really nice to meet people my own age with similar interests.”
“What I loved most was the support for mental health,” said Davidson. “There were so many people there for us who listened to our concerns and helped us build ourselves up with hands-on experience in tons of fields. Anxiety workshops, finance, planning, stuff like that. Like one day, they brought in a chef for a cooking day just because one of us was interested in it.”
The program has also helped Davidson create her own business focused on reiki, alternative healing. “I loved the program – 100/10, it was so much fun.”
[Note: The YESS program is funded by the Government of Canada under the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. Contact the Old School (email [email protected]) to find out how to apply for the next round of the program later this year.]