Not-for-profit organization offers golden opportunities

By Kate Lysakowski
Produced by Tom Cunningham

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The formidable challenge of finding meaningful employment in Canada has become the norm. Even those with a post-secondary degree will attest to the fact that the once excited optimism with which one begins a job search quickly fades into the most daunting of endeavours. For those without the seemingly small benefit of a post-secondary education, and in some cases without having completed high school, the pursuit for work seems almost impossible.

Colin Morrison, who has over 20 years of experience in the Ontario education system and has taught students from every level of the spectrum from elementary through to university, recognized the significance of his community’s increasing employment problem. Inspired by a trip to West Germany, Morrison noticed that “employers, educators and government were … working together harmoniously for the benefit of job seekers, employers and the economy,” which quickly evolved into what The Career Foundation would become: Ontario’s most successful not-for-profit organization focusing on developing human potential by assisting job seekers in finding meaningful employment.        

Since Morrison’s launch of The Career Foundation in 1988, what began as one central office with only five staff members has now grown to include seven offices across the GTA and Hamilton with close to one hundred employees. As an independent, registered charity, the organization receives funding from government agencies as well as private sector companies and individuals, allowing The Career Foundation to provide employment services to their clients at no cost. Over the past four years, they have served over 15,000 unemployed or underemployed clients and aided in the successful employment of almost 3,000 people during their 2014–2015 government contract periods alone. Working closely with more than 2,000 employers, The Career Foundation continually exceeds their agency goals, contributing to their trustworthy reputation of being able to deliver a positive impact on the bottom line.

While The Career Foundation is available to all ages, the agency is particularly beneficial to those who might not otherwise have access to free career guidance and training. Most of the offices are strategically based around communities with the greatest need for access to such services. Not only does the organization offer aid in exploring career options, resume building, and interview preparation, but they also provide a comprehensive youth employment program for people under the age of 30 with barriers to employment.

Receiving funding from the government, the Completing the Circle Program, otherwise referred to as CTC, assists youth job seekers by providing them with individual support. Together, the employment specialist and the client work side by side to discover and understand the client’s skill set and build a marketable niche for them within the workplace. To be considered for the CTC program, the stipulations are limited: the client must be between the ages of 15 and 30 and they must not be receiving any employment insurance income. Although the primary goal of CTC is job placement, Morrison explains that the program “fosters an environment conducive to the development of life and employability skills.” Furthermore, it offers a sense of motivation that otherwise might not be there. “Some of these kids,” Morrison says, “have been through the courts, in jail, in a gang” and The Career Foundation offers the hope of a different and brighter future.

Their mission is “to link the resources of private sector companies, education and government to help all members of the community make the transition into employment,” though Morrison attributes the ultimate success of the organization to its core values. The corporate culture that drives results is their ability to provide exceptional customer service while maintaining a professional image with a sense of transparency, which extends throughout each of their seven offices.  He explains that he never expects his employees to work overtime or weekends, but that the team morale is such that they consistently want to meet and exceed their goals whenever possible.

Even after just a quick review of the Canadian government’s return on investment and savings because of their direct contributions to The Career Foundation, it is not difficult to understand why the organization has ambitious plans to expand throughout the country in coming years. To break it down, The Career Foundation received $8.1 million in government funding in 2013-2014; with that funding, nearly 3,000 people became employed taxpayers, contributing over $18.4 million in taxes. Importantly, of those 3,000 newly employed, a percentage of them were receiving OW or EI prior to being employed through The Career Foundation. The results of coming off the system saved the government nearly $13 million. For every $1 invested by the government between 2013 and 2014, there was an ROI of $3.84 during that 12-month period.  

For all of The Career Foundation’s success, there are several new ventures in the works, including a new trades division and a military to civilian career transition program. “The plan is to keep moving, keep building,” Morrison enthusiastically explains. One of the most rewarding elements for the founder of The Career Foundation is “a recognition that there is gold in everyone … when the client recognizes that gold within himself, it drastically changes his attitude and motivates him to move forward.”

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