For three decades the London Employment Help Centre (LEHC) has been helping local job seekers connect with the employment opportunities that will help turn their futures around.
In the past year, for example, the centre (100-150 Dufferin Ave.) has helped 1,800 clients with individual counselling, assisted another 1,500 through group workshops, and provided resource centre services to upwards of 20,000 people.
The question is, does that level of service show how many people are getting help or just highlight the desperate need of the community?
Nancy McQuillan, who has worked at LEHC for 26 years, now serves as CEO. From her perspective, McQuillan said things are getting better despite the centre’s heavy caseload.
“We are still in tough times right now. I do see light at the end of the tunnel,” McQuillan said. “We do see a lot of employers hiring. And we do see better jobs than we have seen in the past, which is a good indication of things.”
Another strong indicator is that LEHC is working with 469 different employers to offer work to those in need.
Thirty years ago the LEHC was established by the London District Labour Council and United Way to assist individuals with their EI claims and with various advocacy issues.
Today, LEHC still has an advocacy department that is solely funded by United Way.
That advocacy, McQuillan said, is the basis of LEHC’s mission. If people can’t eat, put food on the table, they can’t concentrate on job search, and so that is integrated into the entire organization.
With the help of United Way the advocacy work of LEHC has grown to be an entire department. The LEHC counsellors go to that department because, McQuillan said, all of the clients have issues around something, be it food, housing, or any other personal crisis.
From there, once clients had resolved their EI issues, it became apparent they didn’t know how to get back into the labour market. And that is where the job search started.
Groups were formed to help clients write resumes, conduct job searches, and prepare for interviews.
That mission remains true today.
“We still see employees from Ford, for example, who worked their entire lives there. They have never done a resume, they have no idea how to market themselves, they have no idea how to interview,” McQuillan said. “The same with a lot of the new Canadians we work with, which is about 40 percent of our clientele. It is extremely difficult for them so we help with all those issues. We help them gain experience through volunteering, find a mentor; we do a lot of that here.”
Clients can use the resource centre to conduct their own job search or perhaps move into individual or group counselling.
McQuillan said there are those who no matter how many workshops they go to, or how many great resumes are put together for them, they are just unable to get past the interview stage. So becomes LEHC’s job to market for them and connect them with employers.
The 30-year success of LEHC is reflected in the support it has received from those it works with.
McQuillan said client satisfaction is rated at 99 percent while employers rate it at 100 percent. When it comes to advocacy, the satisfaction rate is also 100 percent.
And those kinds of numbers, McQuillan said, stem from one thing, the 236-person LEHC staff.
“We have a great team of people who are extremely committed to doing all they can to not just provide a service, but to treating people with dignity and respect for the whole person,” McQuillan said. “They are seeing past someone just being unemployed. We know there are other issues. Everybody is a person and it becomes what we can do to help the person.”
One way LEHC will be helping clients moving forward isn’t improving technical skills or writing resumes, but rather helping them look their best.
During July, and through a partnership with Moores Clothing for Men, LEHC has been collecting suits, which they will then turn around and offer to clients who are in need.
These and other programs will be celebrated during a 30-year celebration open house that is being held on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, contact London Employment Help Centre by phoning 519-439-0501 or visiting the website at www.lehc.ca.
Another option, one McQuillan is quite proud of, is for people to stop by the office to get a same-day appointment.
“That is something I feel very strongly about. If you want a pizza, you walk in for it, you don’t want it next week, you want it today,” McQuillan said. “It takes a lot of courage to call or come in. If they come in and want help right away, they may have to wait an hour, but we make sure they get in and get that help.”