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Province provides more than $1 million to social enterprise in Powell River

OneLight project provides job skills 
INCLUSIVE MODEL: Minister of social development and poverty reduction Nicholas Simons announced a project that provides work experience and skills training, manufacturing fire starter in Powell River.

A new inclusive employment pilot project is providing eligible Powell River residents with on-the-job work experience and skills training while they earn a fair wage in a new social enterprise.

The province is providing more than $1 million to inclusion Powell River Society to deliver a 72-week work experience opportunity, according to a media release. The project will also test an inclusive model of employment in the manufacturing sector.

OneLight is a social enterprise that manufactures a fire starter that uses recycled materials diverted from the landfill. It can be used to start a fire, indoors and out, in minutes, according to the media release. Project participants are paid for task-based industrial work, product assembly, logistics and general sales.

“Having a job can give people a sense of pride and purpose,” stated minister of social development and poverty reduction Nicholas Simons. “When our skills are put to use, we feel valued, and everyone deserves to feel valued. This is an exciting project taking place here on the Sunshine Coast.”

Now in its seventh month of operation, 25 people are getting work experience on the project. More than 80 per cent of workers on the project experience developmental disabilities and/or multiple barriers to employment.

“What I have seen is a huge rise in my son’s development,” stated Jenny, a parent of a OneLight participant. “He’s remembering a lot more, problem-solving a lot more. It’s good that he tried other things before OneLight and as a family we tried different things. The fact that this is successful shows that it’s being done right. It’s a really big forward movement and I hope they can expand it and give more people purpose.”

Participants and managers undertook an intensive two-week orientation process aimed at building relationships and co-developing workplace guidelines for healthy communications and conflict resolution. Establishing a shared workplace culture has been noted by participants as being a critical success factor, according to the release.

“The way they started the program off with the team training was huge,” stated Barb, a OneLight participant. “It let us all relax; all get to know each other on a personal level and feel more like equals – not that it’s ‘the boss’ you’re talking to.”

Funding for this project is provided through the project-based labour market training stream of WorkBC’s community and employer partnership (CEP). CEP is targeted at projects that support an inclusive economic recovery. CEP supports BC job seekers’ training and work experience, leading to employment in available jobs, and aids businesses and communities to address labour-market challenges. CEP invests $15 million annually in communities throughout BC, according to the release.

“For some participants it is their first job, and they are reporting to us that earning money comes with additional valuable learning opportunities – from which independence grows – including going to the bank, learning about workers’ rights, making financial decisions, and supporting oneself and others,” stated inclusion Powell River CEO Lilla Tipton.

The OneLight project started on September 21, 2020, and project activities run through to April 15, 2022.