January 22, 2018
Can someone who has been homeless or been addicted to alcohol or drugs find a job?
This isn’t just a philosophical question for Myla McInnis. Instead, it’s a practical, real-life challenge she deals with every day she walks into work as employment program manager for Phoenix.
As manager, she oversees the employment program and its staff. And as an integrated case manager herself, she also spends about 50 percent of her time seeing clients individually, and helping them find a way back into the working world.
Myla has a rotating case load of roughly 45 people and on a typical day, she’ll see five or six of them in hour-long appointments. “Even though employment is our primary focus, we help them with whatever they need,” she says, noting that this might include dealing with mental health issues or figuring out what continuing education support they might need.
In her 10 years with the organization, Myla has accumulated plenty of good news stories, including:
A fellow who had been in a trade for a long time with no certification. Myla assisted him in getting his certification and then helped him with his pardon. He landed a job right out of school and worked in his trade for a very long time, received his pardon and went back to school and became a community support worker. “He’s probably been clean for 10 years now and he still stays in touch,” she says.
A gentleman who participated in a construction safety course and earned an award of excellence.
A young guy who upgraded his math skills, earned his first level of electrical certification and is now pursuing his apprenticeship.
“It makes you feel really good,” Myla says. “We help different people in different ways and we have very good connections in the community.” Having the Phoenix Kwantlen Learning Centre in the building is a big asset for clients, especially if they’ve been out of school for a while and haven’t used their math or English skills recently. And the secret sauce? Phoenix is a fully integrated centre, helping clients with all aspects of their life. “We’re able to help clients move into employment while also working on other life or health challenges,”Myla says.
Myla became an employment counsellor more than 20 years ago. Holding a career practitioner certification from Douglas College and a diploma in Adult Education from Vancouver Community College, she started her working life in Vancouver with half of her clientele coming from the Downtown East Side. Following that work, she ended up becoming a counsellor with community corrections in the Fraser Valley area with youth and young adults. And from there, she made the transition to Phoenix.