Val Lougheed is one amazing woman. Standing quietly in the background on Wednesday afternoon, she watched with a smile on her face as one of her staff, Vicki Hannan, ushered a new service into the world. Vicki was one of six community partners cutting the ribbon that launched a new employment service into Barrie’s south end.

Vicki is the team leader of the new Employment Resource Centre in Barrie’s south end. Located at 22 Commerce Park Dr., it’s designed to service the many new residents of South Barrie, as well as residents of Essa and Innisfil. And what are Employment Resources?

Well, if you’re un or under-employed, or if the three-hour commutes have burned you out and you’ve decided you want to work locally, the ERC (Employment Resource Centre) is a one-stop shop on your road to finding another way to work.

Computers, workshops, resumés, internet, job finding, online research, personality and skills assessment, information, direction, coaching, support... the people who work at the new south ERC offer all those services, and more.

The facility is operated by Northern Lights Vocational Services, a Minden-based business dedicated to providing support to people who are employed and people who are unemployed. Northern Lights is the brainchild of Val Lougheed who had the vision to build an enterprise that addresses the needs of today’s job seeker.

And, with the full time job going the way of the do-do bird, places like the Employment Resource Centre are very busy helping people look at contract employment, or two part time jobs that string together enough activity for a full time income. It also offers monthly information sessions about self employment services available in the region.

The ERC is a unique partnership with a number of Barrie entities, all of whom work together to provide excellent service to the ERC clients. Involved on a daily basis are counsellors from Northern Lights Vocational Services, the Career Centre (Bayfield Mall) which itself is a partnership of the Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Roman Catholic School Board. Georgian College’s Career Development Centre is involved at the ERC as is the Barrie Y. La Clé d’la Baie is a sixth partner offering employment services to francophones in the region.

Funding the entire project is Human Resources Development Canada with a mandate to ensure that Canadians have universal access to employment-enhancing services.

While the ERC enjoyed its official opening on Wednesday, it’s actually been in operation since late December. And it mirrors the work of its sister centre, the Central Barrie Employment Resource Centre which is located at Collier and Owen streets.

These projects are a far cry from one-on-one employment services. They embrace the energy of a community and help people choose directions for themselves that are life enhancing choices. Vicki Hannan is determined that evening hours will serve the commuting population once the need is defined. So, if you’re interested in working differently, drop in and see the folks at the new ERC.

Thanks, Val. Thanks, Vicki.

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