Creating Change and Learning Together with New Opportunities for Work

When the New Opportunities for Work (NOW) Program was launched in July 2017, the goal was to help at least 150 participants, from groups under-represented in our workforce, attach to meaningful employment. Now, almost a year later, we have 167 participants from across the province connected to employment with more than 100 employers.

Group photo from the recent Community of Learning in Fall River, NS.

The program has provided participants an opportunity to upgrade and learn new skills (both through occupation-based and formal education/training) – while employers are receiving cultural competency and diverse workplace training. Through NOW, we have also been able to put supports in place for participants that accommodate their own unique needs and barriers to sustainable employment.

Our collaborative partnerships, with the ten proponent organizations helping to facilitate the program within their communities, have immeasurably enriched and strengthened the program outcomes. Each organization brings with it a wealth of expertise, innovative ideas, and passion for helping others attain “full and abundant lives”.

On May 17th and 18th, the Centre for Employment Innovation hosted our second Community of Learning (COL) for the NOW proponent organizations. Joining our original ten organizations at the COL was Phoenix Youth, who in partnership with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, will be facilitating a NOW-like program for youth.

Representatives from thirteen organizations came together at the Community of Learning.

During the two-day Community of Learning event, we hosted a storytelling session where each proponent organization shared stories of a participant’s journey with NOW and the impact it has had on their lives. It was a powerful and moving experience for all in attendance.

Recently we caught up with a few attendees of the Community of Learning, asking for their reflections on the event and the NOW program. Included below are the insights they shared.


How is the NOW Program impacting your community?


“This program offered clients stable employment with opportunities for advancement. These clients are now either off or won’t have to go on social assistance, which makes a huge difference for immigrants and refugees in particular. A number of clients are in the apprenticeship program; while working in their desired fields, they are learning their jobs in a Canadian environment and getting retraining in their fields, if necessary. By the end of the program, many of them will pass at least two apprenticeship levels.  Five are retraining for careers they previously had – one is ready to submit documentation to Engineers Nova Scotia. A number have received raises from their starting salary or had their wages voluntarily topped up by the employer during apprenticeship training. On a personal note, one has just purchased a home, another has saved to bring his family here from India, and another has almost enough money to bring his children here from Ghana. The program has had a significant and quantifiable impact on our community.” – Mohja Alia, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)


“The Now Program is having a broad-based impact in the 16 communities where we have engaged job seekers and employers. The broad appeal for the program continues to be its accessibility to small and medium-sized enterprises, who in this program, have been given the same status as a large business. The varying degree of skills that have been matched to this point, has highlighted the number of persons that are running into barriers too numerous or embedded to overcome. The NOW program and its flexibility may prove to be the cornerstone of real employment engagement for a dedicated number of community persons and their families.” – Robert Ffrench, Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association (VANSDA), Nova Scotia Works Centre


“The NOW program has impacted our community in a number of ways but most importantly, it’s bringing people back home to Cape Breton to work and thrive in a position within their field of work and study, which has had the most profound impact on our participants. A majority of our proponents were outside the province prior to the NOW program beginning and have since been able to reroute their career paths back to their homeland.  In addition, businesses have been able to expand and grow due to the level of expertise and experience participants have been able to offer to the business itself.” – Kristin MacIntyre, Island Employment, Nova Scotia Works Centre


What is your biggest takeaway from the recent Community of Learning?


“I was really impressed with how candid participants were around the very real social, psychological, physical and economic barriers their clients were facing, and the creative ways they were addressing these challenges. The stories shared touched every participant in so many ways. It made it clear that the wrap-around care model and the flexibility of supports are both necessary and effective in overcoming clients’ barriers and leading to meaningful employment. Building connections with other organizations and supporting organizations was possible and encouraged.” – Mohja Alia, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)


“There is a wealth of expertise available to be tapped into for the gathering of information and evaluation of the projects’ effectiveness. The diversity of the organizations involved is a model that is more representative of the communities across Nova Scotia than most other programs supported by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.” – Robert Ffrench, Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association (VANSDA), Nova Scotia Works Centre


“I loved and thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Community of Learning.  I felt it was very interesting to see the innovation happening across the province with the NOW program.  For our organization, we took home with us the stories of success and hope to continue on the path of success with our own participants.” – Kristin MacIntyre, Island Employment, Nova Scotia Works Centre