Town council opposes closure of employment centre

Town council is up in arms about the future closure of the employment centre in Rimbey

Town council is up in arms about the future closure of the employment centre in Rimbey and councillors want the minister of human resources to know they are upset.

At its meeting last Monday council agreed to send a letter to Manmeet Bhullar imploring him to immediately reverse the decision to close the centre and restore the service model that they say has worked so well in the past and delivered proven results.

In the letter, signed by Mayor Rick Pankiw, it states that it is a sad irony that the centre appears to have worked itself out of a job.

“In making this decision (to close the centre) we were advised by department staff that the closure is a result of the low unemployment rate in the area. This logic is tragically flawed and supports the concept that no good deed goes unpunished. The very reason why unemployment rates are low in this area is a result of the effectiveness of the employment centre services.”

Pankiw noted there has been a need to increase the operating hours of the centre because of the increasing need for its services.

“It’s a service that’s very, very needed in our community,” he said.

Coun. Paul Payson noted that people who are unemployed also receive advice and referrals to other agencies through Monica Rondeel who works at the unemployment centre.

“It’s more than just about getting a paycheck,” he said.

Helen Coers, who was in the council gallery during the meeting, commended council for taking a stand on the issue.

“I really appreciate that council is taking an interest in this,” she said.

Alberta Human Services spokesperson Charles Strachey said the unemployment rate in the Central region is below three per cent. The low number has resulted in the province’s decision not to renew its contract with the Lacombe Action Group to provide employment services to the Rimbey and Ponoka area in the same way as in the past.

Strachey said the province’s contract with the Lacombe Action Group to provide employment services will be discontinued at the end of next month.

However, even though the employment centre will shut its doors, employment services, through different means, will still be available.

“We regularly review the needs of each community that we serve and adjust our services as the needs change. Helping these Albertans get into the labour market will improve their quality of life and add new workers to our extremely tight labour market,” said Strachey.

Strachey said intensive one-on-one career counseling services will be provided by local career counsellors for anyone who is having trouble finding or keeping a job.

“This intensive one-on-one counseling will replace the walk-in employment centre located in Rimbey,” he said. The one-on-one counseling services can be accessed through a referral from an Alberta Works Centre.

Services include help with resumes, job interviews, and access to exposure courses.

Targeted employment services also include 26 weeks of intensive, holistic counseling and support that addresses the Albertans various employment barriers, including addictions, lack of education, life skills, mental health and disabilities.

Services also include connections to local employers who are hiring.

All Rimbey residents may access employment services through the ALIS website; or the career information hotline at 1-800-661-3753; or visit employment services offices located in Lacombe, Drayton Valley, Rocky Mountain House, Red Deer and Wetaskiwin.

The Rimbey library also has seven public access computers for anyone who doesn’t have access to a computer for their job search.