If Op@Work did not exist, somebody would have to invent it. Specifically, somebody would have to invent it for Katrina Heer.
For years, the wife of a Canadian Armed Forces cook, who had been posted to CFB Gagetown, was employed as a full-time cleaner at CFB Kingston. A graduate of Carleton University’s Bachelor of Journalism degree program, she had also worked for Corrections Canada as a clerk. For her, the move to Fredericton last summer was not an easy thing to contemplate.
“It was all very daunting,” she says. “I had to leave and go to a job market I didn’t know at all.”
Then entered the New Brunswick Military Family Resource Centre’s (NBMFRC) Op@Work pilot program. Supported by CFB Gagetown, it works to help military family members find gainful employment in New Brunswick. “It was amazing,” Katrina says. “From the day I registered with them, they were right with me all the way. I really felt like I had someone there in my corner.”
That was in early August. Today, Katrina feels confident and connected to her new community in ways that are already making a big difference to her job prospects.
Established only this past April, Op@Work’s mandate is to work directly with job seekers and prospective employers to find the right fit between them. In effect, it’s both recruitment and employment agency: a matchmaking service that strives to meet the needs of both job candidates and hiring managers.
“We know that military family members are resourceful members of the communities in which they live and work,” says Jolyne Roy, Op@Work’s Fredericton-based Director. “But, frequent relocations of the serving member make it challenging for military spouses to secure continuous employment. At the same time, business and/or organizations don’t always know about this segment of the prospective employee pool. That’s where we come in.”
The advantages to prospective employers include: A detailed selection process to determine the most qualified candidate(s) from a pool of program registrants; collaboration with the Director of Op@Work in selecting the right candidate(s) for opportunities; careful alignment of potential matches to fully reflect organizations’ values, work ethic, and core vision; employer-directed standardized testing of job candidates as part of the hiring process, facilitated and administered by the NBMFRC; and membership in the Employer Recognition Program to signify their commitment to helping military family members gain meaningful employment.
Benefits to job seekers include: An extensive evaluation to determine the best match of skills, qualifications and expectations to job opportunities from interested, motivated, prospective employers; collaboration with the Director of Op@Work in selecting the right employment postings; and careful alignment of potential matches to fully reflect job seekers’ values, availability and circumstances.
In Katrina’s case, the approach was enormously effective. Op@Work didn’t merely take note of her needs; it studied her resume, asked her relevant questions about her expectations and qualifications, and applied this intelligence to opportunities in the local job market.
Although Op@Work was inspired by the MFS National Spousal Employment Network, it actually materialized as the NBMFRC listened to local community members. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean its relevance doesn’t have broader appeal. According to many national business executives, initiatives like this are both beneficial and timely. “We are committed to hiring the best talent from all backgrounds,” said Cathy Scarlett, BMO’s Vice President of Talent Acquisition, last year during the launch of the National Spousal Employment Network.
Says Roy: “We’ve built on the national vision to implement our own, localized model. The hope is that this model could eventually be transposed to other regions where military family members may face similar challenges.”