YWCA Muskoka Launches Step Forward To Boost Employment Readiness In Muskoka


Registration is now open for a brand new local program to help boost employment readiness in Muskoka.

Step Forward, created and run by YWCA Muskoka, is a six-week program designed to help women and gender diverse individuals develop their strengths and find meaningful employment in Muskoka.

According to a National report (feministrecovery.ca), women have borne the brunt of the economic losses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Within Canada, in March 2020, women represented 70 per cent of all job losses in the core demographic aged 25 to 54 years. YWCA Muskoka, along with YWCAs across Canada, is advocating that women need to be centered in Canada’s economic recovery efforts.

A report to District Council on Muskoka’s Labour Market said the area’s higher-paying jobs are steadily being replaced by lower-paying ones as shifts from the production of goods in industries like manufacturing and construction take place in favour of a more service-based economy. These jobs tend to pay less and be more precarious.

Francesca Fernandes, YWCA Muskoka Employment Coach and creator of Step Forward, says the program will help address these issues by collaborating and working with employers in the area who are working towards paying a living wage and who can provide stable working conditions, like paid sick days.

“Through the Step Forward program, we want to highlight not only what Muskoka-based employers are looking for, but also what the community members of Muskoka seek in positive and meaningful employment. We want to connect with employers who are willing to provide equitable working conditions and wages,” Fernandes said.

Step Forward is a free program that combines independent work, peer support, and one-to-one assistance with a trained facilitator. Participants can expect to leave with tools to navigate the process of finding employment, including marketing skills and managing the work-life balance. The program also includes networking and mentorship opportunities with local businesses and entrepreneurs. Other topics will include:

  • Identifying strengths and values
  • Discovering transferable skills
  • Honing interview skills
  • Writing resumes and cover letters
  • Managing stress and anxiety
  • Tips for learning new information
  • Navigating job searches and applications
  • Maintaining a new employment position

Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to complete free, professional trainings and/or certifications at their own pace on a variety of topics like Smart Serve, WHMIS, customer service training, Microsoft Word, Excel, health and safety, and more.

“We recognize that knowing how to find employment and market your skills might not be something we inherently know how to do or were taught how to do. By offering time and experience in the Muskoka job search we hope to better connect potential candidates with equitable and person-centered employment in the community,” Fernandes said.

Step Forward will take place ONLINE via Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 pm to 3 pm, starting Sept. 14 and ending Oct. 21, 2021. For those who cannot join during daytime hours, an evening program will begin in November on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 pm to 8 pm.

Registration is now open at: www.ywcamuskoka.com/step-forward

For more information about the program, please call Francesca Fernandes (she/her) at 705-645-9827.

Step Forward was created through a grant for Training and Employment Supports from the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Office of Women’s Issues.

YWCA Muskoka champions positive change for women and girls through education, leadership and advocacy. We envision a future in which all women and girls are thriving. www.ywcamuskoka.com


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