TRURO – Ellen Culgin loves to see the expression on a client’s face when they see things in a different light.
“That’s what’s kept me here,” said Culgin, a food services instructor with Futureworx Society, which is celebrating 30 years in operation. “It’s sometimes a challenge for people to see something in a different way, and when I see the look on their face when they realize it, that’s what I love.”
While the society was celebrating three decades, Culgin just celebrated two decades as an instructor on Friday.
“I really like the people. There are so many varieties of people here, and there are so many different personalities. It’s interesting meeting new people and you learn so much from other people.”
During her 20 years, Culgin estimates she has taught more than 700 students in the food services program, which is one of the enhanced services offered. In the food services program, students keep things fresh in the cafeteria at the Futureworx work centre, located on Glenwood Drive.
“One of the things that we teach everyone is that we treat everyone equally and fairly,” said Culgin, adding she’s built up professional relationships with her students. “If I’m meeting them, say on the street, their name comes to me. As soon as I see them, I remember their name.”
Debby Thomas, the centre manager, said the centre’s main objective is to assist people that are experiencing obstacles to employment, “by increasing their employable skills and help transition them to employment.”
Having been with the centre for 17 years, Thomas said she’s most satisfied when seeing clients in the community working.
“And they’re happy and confident,” she said. “Our hope is that the things our clients learn at work they will also use in their personal life and start to feel like they belong in the community.”
The centre offers a job search centre that is open to the public and includes amenities such as faxing, photocopying and appointments to have their resumes and cover letters worked on.
Along with food services program, students can also enroll in environmental services and continuing care assistant.
“We’re also developing a retail sales associate program, based on the labour market needs. It wasn’t something our clients were asking for, but local employers. That seems to be where the openings are,” said Thomas.
Seeing just over 5,000 clients through the door at the work centre last year, the manager said there isn’t one story that sticks out.
“A lot of them have had struggles in school, or problems with past employers that they didn’t quite know how to handle, and then there are life situations that interfere with one’s ability to focus on employment that just need a leg up,” she added.
Last year, the centre hosted 72 employment related workshops and had about 80 students enrolled in enhanced services.
This year, Tiffany Macdonald is one of those currently learning food services.
“I was interested in continuing care assistant, but they only take about 10 students at a time,” said Macdonald, 26, who lives in Truro.
“But I knew I could gain experience in food services and decided to further my education this way. The staff is really great and we’re learning to work together and work efficiently.”