My name is Janelle Flanagan and I have been the facilitator of the Basic Education & Skills Training (B.E.S.T) program for 8+ years. I have found the B.E.S.T program to be extremely rewarding professionally and wanted to take a moment to explain what exactly we do and how the proposed Social Entreprise Hub would be paramount to our success.
It brings great fulfillment as an adult educator to watch an individual enter the B.E.S.T program, lacking in soft skills, short on workplace experience, uncertain of a career path, unaware of their talents and abilities, lacking in self-esteem, often living in an unstable situation, making unhealthy choices, and very unaware of the community supports out there to help them overcome barriers...and over time witness them courageously try new ways, open themselves to opportunities, build academic, workplace, and life skills, own their choices, start to heal the hurts, and take responsibility for their future! Nothing is more satisfying than seeing that individual break cycles of poverty, abuse, and apathy knowing they are worth it and, with support, can achieve greatness.
The B.E.S.T program is the most holistic program at the Learning Exchange. Most program participants attend full-time, Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm in preparation for employment an/or post-secondary education. Most learners have not completed high-school, so the GED is frequently their primary goal. Learners have ample time to prepare and receive support for this exam in an individualized and self-paced manner.
Learners also have regular access to:
-explore post-secondary options (Career Cruising and guest speakers/tours to NBCC and UNBSJ)
-computer training (Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point)
-budgeting and money management (Money Matter$)
-community engagement opportunities (SJ Free Public Library, Imperial Theatre, NB Museum, SJMNRC, PRUDE Inc., etc.)
But what makes the B.E.S.T program unique is the support offered to help learners overcome personal barriers inside and outside of the classroom. B.E.S.T offers a platform for self-development and building life-skills which are critical to success. Learners receive regular feedback and work to move from unacceptable, to acceptable, to professional levels of development in key soft skill areas.
We partner regularly with the WorkLinks team to offer in-class workshops on topics such as personal accountability, motivation, time-management, stress-management, respect, communication, and teamwork. We supplement these workshops with individualized exposures within our own social enterprises, Stone Soup Catering and Viola! These training sessions help to foster skills in a hands-on manner, outside of the classroom.
Furthermore, we partner with such community organizations as St. Joseph's Community Health Centre, Community Mental Health, Addictions Services, Gentle Path Counseling Services, PEER 126, Power-Up, and Self Esteem: The Key to Well-Being to name a few. Advocating and helping learners attach to specific services beyond our boundaries frequently enables stability and empowerment.
It is this holistic and partnership-based approach that makes the B.E.S.T program so unique. Whether the partnerships are in-house or community-based, they are paramount to the success of our participants. Having a centrally located Social Enterprise Hub would facilitate ease of access to our programs, services, social enterprises, and key stake-holders invested in poverty reduction. When our learners know they matter, empowerment can truly begin!
Author- Janelle Flanagan
Janelle has a background in Nursing and Psychology and has been involved with the Learning Exchange for nearly 15 years! She is passionate about culture, the arts, and loves to travel with her husband Gary.