Friday November 10, 2023 | SOOKE, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
It’s been a multi-year endeavour — including through the pandemic — to relocate the WorkBC / WorkLink Employment Centre Sooke office — from an older off-main-street location to its own brand new building with high visibility on Church Road.
Today was the day! An official opening of the newly constructed facility.
The celebratory event was attended by about 60 people including local community leaders together with local MLA Ravi Parmar (Langford-Juan de Fuca) and Karen Blackman, Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) of the Employment and Labour Market Services Division, Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. Executive Directors from the ministry also attended: Kerry Taylor and Anne Wetherill.
Also attending was Nancy West, Contract and Partner Agent (CAPA) who liaises between the Province and WorkLink.
District of Sooke Council was represented by Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, and Dana LaJeunesse. District of Sooke Communications Coordinator Christina Moog and Economic Development Manager Gail Scott also attended.
WorkLink Board members Shirley and Joanne attended, as did Mary Dunn of the Sooke Region Community Health Network.
WorkLink has been providing services in the Sooke community since 2008. “We finally have our own home,” said Peter Doukakis, Executive Director, WorkBC Centre.
Attending today as media was Island Social Trends editor Mary P Brooke.
Warm welcoming place:
The new building space at 2096 Church Road is owned by Work Link Employment Society. The community office will support local job seekers and employers — a function which influenced the design of the building. Funding for the centre comes through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
ADM Blackman called it “a warm welcoming place” that’s “new and fresh and purpose-filled”. She feels the room sizes are tailored to being in a small community, which she called thoughtful.
Decorated in cool tones of grey, the office feels clean and sleek in the large open foyer entry area and continues with clean lines down a long hallway off which meeting rooms, board rooms, and workstation/computer spaces are found. A larger meeting area for events is found at the end of the hallway. Lots of windows, lots of light. There is wi-fi and state-of-the-art HVAC as well as a security system.
MLA Parmar said he would be referring people (through his constituency office in Langford) to the WorkLink resources in Sooke as well as the established WorkLink office in the west shore (technically in Colwood, but also servicing Langford). He said that situations of language barriers or job loss might be handled well at WorkLink. He called the new space “fresh and loving”.
Deputy Mayor Beddows called the building opening “an important milestone” for the community. “We have a lot of new people coming to town, a lot of new people changing jobs and they need to come and find a safe and beautiful place that they can look to the future and take charge of their own lives,” said Beddows. “Equipment, technology and a caring team” makes the place one of support — including for service groups, he said.
Open use of the space:
The operational space is available during days, evenings and weekends. Use of the space will be free to community groups, non-profits and initiatives associated with the District of Sooke, said Doukakis.
He says the hub will for economic development and business. Slower client volumes seen during the pandemic (in the previous building) are likely to pick up now.
Blackman said “it’s a pretty good labour market right now, with unemployment rates being pretty low”, but added that people “still need help and support finding jobs”. She noted the support for ‘newer immigrants’ to the Sooke area who seek out what she called the “lower cost of living” in the seaside semi-rural town.
Businesses may rent use of the space on evenings and weekends for a $75 fee; intended uses would include interviews, staff training and supporting employees or community members. Lots of street-level parking.
Doukakis gave a shout out to employers who handled so much through the pandemic, as well as to the District of Sooke council and staff who have done a lot to facilitate the success that was celebrated today.
WorkLink Sooke is a member of the District of Sooke Economic Development Committee, the Regional Tourism Strategy, and the Community Investment Co-op Initiative (which helps startup businesses).
There was a shout out for Casman Properties as the contractor for the building. Construction was “on time, on budget”. Though Doukakis gave several mea culpa today for being $5,000 over budget, which everyone seemed to think was reasonable, especially getting through the pandemic — including the ADM herself which said the budget adherence was “quite amazing” with notation about increasing construction costs and Parmar who noted this being a time of global inflation and supply chain challenges.
WorkBC is funded under a federal -provincial partnership. The Labour Market Development Agreement funds BC to provide WorkBC Centres across the province (102 centres presently). “It’s a bit of a unique model in local communities,” said Blackman, noting that standardized but customized services are the goal.
Robert Hanson was acknowledged for technical support — doing so remotely today.
The WorkBC Centre set up in recent years in Port Renfrew submitted seven funding request proposals and all were successful, totalling $670,000.
Port Renfrew is included in the current Langford-Juan de Fuca riding boundary.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends covers socioeconomic and political news of interest to business, community, municipalities and every British Columbian who is affected by political shifts in BC.
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been covering news of the west shore and south Vancouver Island (with an eye to BC politics) since 2008.
Island Social Trends launched as an online news portal at IslandSocialTrends.ca in mid-2020, preceded by the printed weekly West Shore Voice News (2014-2020) and Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and before that MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010).
The print/PDF edition of Island Social Trends will launch in 2024. Advertisers and Premium Subscribers welcome.