Cham­pi­ons of di­ver­sity

VANSDA helps clients over­come bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment through ed­u­ca­tion

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY KIRK STARRATT KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

An or­ga­ni­za­tion built on prin­ci­ples of in­clu­sion has be­come cham­pi­ons the in­fu­sion of di­ver­sity in the An­napo­lis Val­ley work­force.

Val­ley African Nova Sco­tian De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (VANSDA) op­er­a­tions man­ager and ca­reer prac­ti­tioner Lisa Diggs said the or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­ists to pro­vide em­ploy­ment ser­vices and sup­port to the en­tire com­mu­nity. Their ef­forts are var­ied but in­clude help­ing clients look for work and help­ing them brush up on skills for an ex­ist­ing job.

“We help them with ev­ery­thing from start­ing with their re­sume to work­ing with em­ploy­ers and match­ing them with em­ploy­ers, so it’s the whole gamut,” Diggs said.

VANSDA fa­cil­i­tates pre-em­ploy­ment train­ing and a va­ri­ety of other train­ing pro­grams, she ex­plained. Ex­am­ples in­clude the one-day Work­place Haz­ardous Ma­te­ri­als In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (WHMIS) 2015 course that many em­ploy­ees need; food safety cour­ses or even fork­lift cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Diggs said the train­ing can also be quite unique at times, such as a course in blood­borne pathogens for tat­too artists.

Some­times, she says, when peo­ple hear the name Val­ley African Nova Sco­tian De­vel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, they as­sume that the or­ga­ni­za­tion only works with or as­sists African Nova Sco­tians, but Diggs said this isn’t the case.

VANSDA’s staff is re­flec­tive of the broader com­mu­nity it serves and any com­mu­nity mem­ber who could ben­e­fit from the ser­vices they of­fer can take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided, she says.

“That would be any­one who at­tends an African Nova Sco­tian event, fam­ily of, re­lated to or in as­so­ci­a­tion with, so we’ve al­ways been open to ev­ery­body,” Diggs said. “Our ser­vices aren’t lim­ited so we’ve been a broad range of ser­vices to ev­ery­body since we started.”

Di­ver­si­fy­ing the work­force

As African Nova Sco­tians are a mi­nor­ity, they aren’t re­flected as promi­nently in the work­force, Diggs says. That can lead to ques­tions dur­ing a job hunt. Some­times, she says, when African Nova Sco­tians don’t see others who look like them in the work­place, it leads to worry that they won’t be ac­cepted be­cause of racism.

Diggs said VANSDA en­cour­ages clients of African Nova Sco­tian de­scent who may be wor­ried about what sort of wel­come to ex­pect to “get out there” and demon­strate that skin tone has no im­pact on ed­u­ca­tion or abil­ity to do a job.

It’s not al­ways knowl­edges.

“(Racism) is still very much preva­lent in the Val­ley to­day,” she said.

She re­calls shop­ping with a friend last year, who later told her that a per­son work­ing in the store had fol­lowed Diggs around and watched her the en­tire time.

“You can go to the store and as soon as you walk in the door, some­one says, ‘can I help you?’ and I’m not even in the store yet,” Diggs said.

She spec­u­lates it’s be­cause the Val­ley doesn’t have a greater di­ver­sity of peo­ple from a wider range of cul­tural and eth­nic back­grounds like a metropoli­tan area does. easy, she

Spread­ing knowl­edge, aware­ness

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Knowl­edge and aware­ness are im­por­tant tools when it comes to deal­ing with racism, and that’s one way an or­ga­ni­za­tion like VANSDA can help.

While the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pri­mary mis­sion is to help peo­ple get em­ployed, Diggs says there is much more sur­round­ing that mis­sion. The or­ga­ni­za­tion hopes to broaden its hori­zons in the fu­ture.

VANSDA is now un­der the um­brella of Nova Sco­tia Works and is co-lo­cated on Web­ster Street in Kentville with Com­mu­nity Inc. and the Kings County branch of the Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion.

She said VANSDA’s fa­cil­ity fea­tures a train­ing cen­tre with a larger com­puter lab. It’s a busy spot - clients of one or­ga­ni­za­tion can eas­ily ac­cess pro­gram­ming or ser­vices pro­vided by an­other of the part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions. That’s why, she adds, it makes sense to have the or­ga­ni­za­tions un­der the

same roof.

For more in­for­ma­tion on VANSDA and the pro­gram­ming the or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fers, visit www. vansda. ca, call 902- 678- 7410 lo­cally or toll-free at 1-866-313VANS (8267).

KIRK STARRATT

VANSDA op­er­a­tions man­ager and ca­reer prac­ti­tioner Lisa Diggs says the or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­ists to pro­vide em­ploy­ment ser­vices and sup­port to the en­tire com­mu­nity.

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