Nothing “new” about employment centre other than name

Dear Editor:

Your article on the “new” employment centre is somewhat typical of the Lacombe Action Group. The services Clint McLeod has gone on about being so new to this area have been available and accessed by hundreds of clients through Ponoka Employment Services for the past six years. Due to the contract restrictions imposed on Ponoka Neighborhood Place by Alberta Employment and Immigration, our “employment services” were limited to resume assistance, job board postings, job search, exposure course funding and access to the internet and fax capabilities. Neighborhood Place was required to refer job placement and work place experience programs to the Lacombe office as was the Rimbey employment office. There is nothing “new” about these new services other than the fact that Lacombe Action Group now runs the program.

The Alberta Employment and Immigration contract supervisor for this area, who just happens to live in Lacombe and is a former employee of the Action Centre, advised Neighborhood Place and the Town of Ponoka last year that a new bid proposal was being introduced that would not only combine the services in Ponoka, Rimbey and Lacombe but would also result in Lacombe having full-time service and Ponoka and Rimbey service being reduced to “part-time” operations (which is what all competing agencies planned into their bids). This was, in the government’s mind, necessary due to client volumes being less in Ponoka and Rimbey compared to Lacombe. At Ponoka Neighborhood Place and at the Rimbey Regional Employment Office, daily records of client volume have been kept for some time. These same records for Lacombe cannot be accessed or verified by anyone but the Alberta Employment and Immigration contract supervisor but by all indications the volume of clients in Ponoka, average 125 per month, was higher than Lacombe and Rimbey combined.

I find it interesting that the “new” employment centre in Ponoka is “full-time.” Is this because they have already discovered that the volumes Nothing “new” about employment centre other than name are higher or was this the plan from the start to throw the competing bid proposals off track to help the Action Group win the bid?

It is what it is, but we need to ask our government representatives if they are aware of what is going on in their constituencies or if they simply allow low level contract supervisors to manipulate the system to what suits them. Ponoka Neighborhood Place asked this question of Thomas Lukaszuk, minister of employment and immigration, and received this response; “Currently, on-site services in Rimbey and Ponoka have been limited to career development services while more specialized services are being provided by a contractor in Lacombe. E & I reviewed the demand for career services, as identified by reported client volumes in these three communities, and determined that a single contractor delivering services for Rimbey, Ponoka and Lacombe will more efficiently and effectively deliver a full range of services to these communities. The change to a single contractor providing services will ensure the residents of Rimbey, Ponoka and Lacombe have access to the career services they need and increase the availability of specialized services in Rimbey and Ponoka.”

Again, these “specialized services” referred to were not allowed in Ponoka and Rimbey’s previous contracts but were being supplied by weekly scheduled appointments conducted by a qualified counsellor who came in from the Lacombe Employment Centre as required. On average two clients per month were being assisted.

As a point of interest, the other bidders on this contract were Employment Placement and Support Services, Lokken Associates Training Consultants Inc. and Ability Research & Training Corporation, all highly professional, experienced employment service agencies compared to an agency that operates group homes, senior’s residences and Castaways.

It should also be noted that Ponoka Neighborhood Place Association will continue to supply services to Ponoka and area residence for all their social service needs and referrals. We will be seeking additional financial support through fund raising and service grants, however it is our commitment to work for this community well into the future and will also continue to offer free Internet, computer, fax, phone and copying services.

Keith Williams,

executive director

Ponoka Neighborhood Place Association

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