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NCDS marks 40 year anniversary

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Northern Community Development Services (NCDS) has been a significant employment resource in the community helping those with anything from finding a job to writing a resume to preparing for an interview.

In 1975, the organization was founded as a private charity with the mandate of providing employment and training services for unemployed people.

With 40 years behind it, the organization still stays true to its founding values.

Nicke Paddock, executive director of NCDS, said the organization couldn’t have been successful without the community partnerships developed throughout the years.

“It’s been 40 years coming from the support of the community. With employers coming in and giving us the opportunity to take our resources, we place people into positions and we’ve really had some good outcomes,” she stressed.

“So, this is 40 years we have to thank the community for all their support.”

The organization will be taking the liberty to thank the community and celebrate the 40-year milestone with monthly events throughout the summer and into November.

Monthly events will consist of free cheeseburger giveaways at the NCDS office along with a different decade dress–up day, commemorating the 40-year period.

“We wanted a way to be able to look back on all those years and the years that a lot of us weren’t here for to have an opportunity to dress up and be silly,” said Sarah Marusyk, events and marketing co-ordinator.

Marusyk added that there will be a 40th anniversary social on Nov. 5 to cap off the celebrations.

“We’re really hoping to engage with some past clients and employees for the social,” she said.

“We’re putting together photos and stories for the social over the years too,” added Marusyk. “So, if anyone has any funny stories or inspirational stories and photos that they want to share with us, we’re really hoping to receive some of those.”

And although its original goal remains the same, the organization’s programs have evolved throughout the years.

Marah Trivers, policy and financial administrator, has been working at NCDS for 12 years and said the biggest transformation she witnessed was an amalgamation in 2010 of its two original employment programs.

“We started being funded as one program funded by the province and one program funded by the federal government,” she explained.

Trivers said it was a long process, but as being one of the only organizations that ran the Job Connect and the Skills and Employment program, it allowed them to develop the best individual program they could.

“You had to take two programs that operated completely differently,” she said.

“But we got to actually pull best practices from various programs and various trial and errors and come up with Employment Ontario,” added Trivers.

This successful amalgamation is one of the many things NCDS staff looks back on as a reminder of what they’ve gone through to make where they are today.

The organization has also designed and provided numerous short-term skill development projects for its clients, including Native Homemakers’ Training, Office Administration Skills, Pre-Apprentice Electrical Training, and various computer courses.

It has also helped develop a number of organizations such as Rainy River District COPE Program (1977-1997), Youth Employment Services (Ministry of Education and Training, 1985-1997), and launch the Rainy River Business Development Corporation, now known as the Rainy River Future Development Corporation.

But, Kym Whalen, resource and information co-ordinator, said that what she looks back on is the people the organization has been able to help over the years.

“Some of the highlights were all the different success stories of people coming out of the organization. We’ve seen them come from very barriered people to successfully on their way to keeping off drugs and alcohol,” she noted.

Trivers added that every client is different in what services they need to be successful.

“For some, it’s having that ability to rebuild confidence and knowing that they have someone in their corner,” she explained.

“It doesn’t have to be just a job, it’s not always employment. Sometimes it’s that you are able to help them into retraining or reconnect with parts of their world,” added Trivers.

“Success doesn’t necessarily mean, ‘Yay, we got you into this successful employment,’” she said.

“Somebody may see successful employment as touching that labour market because they’ve never ever had a job. Everyone’s got a different idea of what successful employment is.”

Joseph Fedorak is one of NCDS’ success stories.

Fedorak came to NCDS in fall of 2011 to take the Skills Link Program.

According to Service Canada, participants of Skills Link are youth or young adults who are at risk of making a transition into the workplace.

At the time, he hadn’t graduated high school and was a single parent.

Tim Spence, job developer at NCDS, helped Fedorak onto the path of becoming successful and said he’s noticed a real change since he first worked with him.

“When Joe first started that program, he had a bit of attitude,” he noted. “He didn’t think he was much good at anything.

“We’d take tests and he’d say ‘I’m going to do lousy on this, or I’m going to do lousy on that,’ but he always did well whenever he did do something,” recalled Spence.

“We took a chance on him and got him a really good career opportunity because we knew that if we could get him interested, he’d succeed.”

Fedorak went from taking Skills Link for two months and got certified in 17 courses that allowed him to gain valuable employment skills, upgrade his education and resume.

He then did a six-month work placement with Andy Peters at Peters Plumbing, where he ended up getting an extension because he was one of the only clients to complete the program.

“I worked for Andy for two and a half years and ended up getting an apprenticeship with him,” Fedorak said.

He added that he’s already completed a year at Fanshawe College in the sheet medal program and has two years left of the program combined with apprenticeship employment at Peters Plumbing before he becomes a Red Seal certified tradesman.

He explained that he’s grateful for NCDS’s services and indicated that he has learned more than just employment skills, but valuable life lessons too.

“It feels good to have accomplished so much. I have a four-year-old daughter and she’s seen me go to school, so she knows how important it is,” said Fedorak. “NCDS has just really changed my life a lot.

“They are very helpful,” he stressed. “I don’t even know where I would be without NCDS. I probably wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure.”

Fedorak’s boss and mentor, Andy Peters, said he believes NCDS is something businesses should take advantage of.

“It’s very important for employers. It helped me out big time. It helped Joey out and everybody gets a good chance at something.”

He added that it’s been enjoyable to watch Fedorak grow as a tradesman throughout his apprenticeship.

“When he first came here, he was a really hard worker . . . He wanted to know everything there is to know and he just kept working away and slowly and surely, he is where he is now,” said Peters.

“Now, I can actually send him out on jobs and I know that they will actually be done right,” he added. “It takes the workload off of me and he likes working overtime.”

And for Spence, seeing Fedorak at the point he’s at now makes him proud to be part of the organization.

“Joe lacked confidence when he came to us, so part of our employment training was to build the person too, not just the skills,” he remarked.

“He really improved from that standpoint and we’re all really proud of him with what he’s done and where he’s got to. So, even though we’re not involved with him anymore, we try to keep in touch and we consider him part of our group,” said Spence.

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