Mish Sukharev (Flickr CC)

Opening doors to success

Program helping clients into the workplace and off income assistance.

STEINBACH, MB—Pressure to find employment is often counterproductive. Nancy McNaughton, program director at Opening Doors to Success Inc., believes “when you don’t put pressure on, they (the clients) want to get there.” Appropriate training and connecting with understanding employers is worth the time it takes.

Opening Doors provides a significant step to getting some clients into the workplace and off income assistance. Tailor-made coaching for people with professional training as well as those with learning disabilities is proving effective. Every three months, 14 spaces open, allowing 72 clients to receive training in a given year. Two full-time and three part-time staff bring a variety of experience and educational qualifications, including social work.

McNaughton has more than 10 years previous experience (including developing “Ready Set Work”) guiding clients in their job pursuits. She realized some clients do not fit the standard job-search programs, and set out to design an alternative. The pilot program grew steadily in its first year.

Learning to deal with realities is a powerful motivational tool. “You need a place to live; you want to be independent.” One young man took 18 months to complete the program set for him. Personal issues caused him to drop out more than once, but now he is well on his way to becoming a carpenter.

Not all people needing work are ready for the process of finding suitable employment. They may not know how to conduct themselves during an interview, or be unable to recognize their strengths. Attaining computer literacy, overcoming feelings of inadequacy, or learning how to dress appropriately for the workplace are significant steps toward employment.

A fashion show by the Women’s Business Network, featuring thrift shop purchases, proved highly beneficial. Steinbach will soon have “Dress for Success” where clients can “have a consultant choose nice apparel (for them) and feel good about how they look.”

Clients involved in Opening Doors to Success can gain proficiency in the English language through cooperation with Steinbach and Area Language and Literacy, or obtain a valid driver’s license. Contracting with qualified agencies (CPR) and career coaches enhances the program. Workplace Education Manitoba and Red River College are other resources.

Partnership is a crucial aspect for community success. Many of ODS’s clients are referred by employment income assistance workers and through Employment Insurance. McNaughton looks forward to connecting with more local employers who are willing to see the strengths different individuals can bring to the workplace, rather than what may appear to be a disability of some sort.

“I don’t know all the answers. We’re growing fast, and that requires a lot of humbling," McNaughton says, adding even though they aren't a Christian organization she teaches "the way I try to live myself. Because of the way I share, I’m able to speak about God and my faith."

With patience and encouragement, staff guide clients, and are truly opening doors to success.

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Pat Gerbrandt is a Manitoba writer who delights to learn how God is working in and through His children, and enjoys sharing these accounts. Do you know a senior with an amazing story? Let us know! E-mail or call 1-800-263-6695.