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Students complete retail and customer service program

By Kathy O'Reilly, North Island Eagle, July 12 2024

There were celebratory fireworks July 4 as the first cohort completed the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce’s Retail & Customer Service Confidence Program, held in partnership with North Island College.

Participating students completed four weeks of classroom instruction and four weeks of work experience to try out their newly acquired skills in a real-world setting.

“We are here to celebrate a journey that we have taken with these students. It’s been a lot, eight weeks, and it has been very, very full,” said North Island College Regional Manager Donna Merry.

“When adults choose a program at the college, we come with sometimes with a lot of anxiety or some past experiences that may, or may not, support our confidence and I’m always amazed by the courage of students to come into a new program, to join a new space, to meet with a new group of people, and to take on something new,” Merry said.

The program was initiated due to the struggle to find workers on the North Island.

“There is definitely a need in our community for more employees who have the skills to provide excellent customer service, and the employers are not able to run their businesses to their fullest capacity because of a lack of staff. It’s really having a detrimental effect in our community,” she said.

“People need the skills to be able to feel confident to walk into those roles, so that is what this program has been about,” Merry continued.

“We consulted with many employers about what characteristics and skills that they felt were most important with new employees – where were the gaps, and we focused the curriculum locally around those experiences of the employers,” she added.

“We were really fortunate to have an experienced instructor who has worked with students in the employment and readiness field before. It has been amazing having Shari (Ogren) with us,” Merry said.

“It has been our huge privilege to be part of this program with the college,” said Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Elizabeth Aman-Hume.

“We are grateful to the Province of BC for supporting this program with funding from the Rural Economic Diversification & Infrastructure Program (REDIP),” said Aman-Hume. “We’ve heard loud and clear from our business community that they are struggling to find and retain staff, yet we also know that there are people in our community that would be very happy to step up and take those jobs if there was some training available,” she said.

Photo — Kathy O'Reilly

The first cohort of the Retail & Customer Service Confidence Program, held in partnership with North Island College,  celebrated the completion of their program July 4.

World Café Wellness Forum educational and healing

By Kathy O'Reilly, North Island Eagle, July 12 2024

Mount Waddington Health Network (MWHN ) Coordinator Marjorie Greensides gave a synopsis of what her organization does to promote health and wellness in the region including the recent World Café Wellness Forum.

“There are health networks across the island and their work is based on what are called the 12 determinants of health,” said Greensides at an Island Health board of directors public forum July 3 at the Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy.

The 12 determinants “are truly a broad spectrum of things that impact our health. It’s not just primary care, which is crucial, but our living standards, what our economics look like, etc.”

One of the “beautiful things” about health networks is there is “a certain level of autonomy that exists. It doesn’t lack accountability, but health networks really do have the ability to respond to their local needs. The health networks are a lovely agency in that they have the ability to take that information and pivot on a dime if we need to,” she said. 

“That’s a really unique position to be in. So many agencies are confined so strictly by their policies and processes and procedures that the ability to pivot doesn’t always happened in a time-frame that makes sense.”

One of the things MWHN has taken on annually is a housing survey for the North Island. 

“We now have data for the region from 2022 to 2023 and now 2024. It’s still in its raw stage, but this is a priority for the health network and this year we added another component to ensure it was meeting the needs of BC Housing.” 

The MWHN recently held a three-day World Café Wellness Forum at the Port Hardy Civic Centre. 

“Given the extra strain that has been put on our local communities of late, some of the crisis situations that we’ve had, we were really trying to look at a way to provide educational opportunities, but also wellness opportunities for our social service providers here,” said Greensides. 

“There are amazing people on the North Island, doing amazing work, and it can be exhausting.” The World Café was an effort to provide a space where they could be honoured, celebrated, and provided with a little care.

“We had nine educational workshops on things like trauma-informed nutrition, how to age well in community, and then we had some healing workshops,” she said.

Photo — Kathy O'Reilly

Public Health Dietitian Taylor Hartwig demonstrates how to make Hummus-in-a-Bag at the World Wellness Café Forum in Port Hardy.

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