It is now week six of my practicum with PIERS and Work BC’s Customized Employment Program and I am feeling more settled in my role and knowledgeable of the organizational structure of both agencies. But, by no means do I consider myself an ‘expert’ in the field of employment programs. I am continually learning new insights on ministry policy, Work BC’s diverse programs and services, and the local community resources that service our most vulnerable population.
A question I had upon embarking on my practicum at PIERS and Work BC was “How might a social work lens or framework fit with my role and the wider organizational structure?” My mind was filled with theoretical perspectives on social work practice from my first semester of course work, that I was eager to integrate this knowledge into practice. As I observed client sessions, read about the program goals and the agency philosophies, it became very clear how a strengths based perspective was woven into the fabric of both Work BC’s employment programs and PIERS services. As I’ve learned in my program, a strengths based perspective is working collaboratively with the client to pull on their individual strengths, accomplishments, resources, and skills to guide them towards their goals and foster a renewed sense of empowerment.
This perspective is evident in how staff at Work BC and PIERS engage with clients, support their goals (e.g. employment, housing, or wellness), and tailor the services to their mental, physical, emotional and cultural needs. It is wonderful engaging with clients and providing them with choices to best support their ideal conditions of employment. I am recognizing similarities with teaching children. You cannot teach a lesson the same way to every child in your class, but rather you need to provide accommodations or modifications to your lesson to ensure that all children are able to learn, understand the information, and thrive in their environment. Similarly, within employment support programs, it involves understanding what accommodations are needed to ensure a client can thrive at work.
I feel humbled each day, engaging with clients who have experienced hardship or who have been marginalized within their community who are now reaching out for support to achieve their goals. In both Work BC and PIERS, there is an emphasis on the value of human engagement, genuine respect and collaboration. Although policy is a crucial piece within government organizations, it is these core values that foster client success, which has a profound impact on the community as a whole.
Jessica Hanson is a first year MSW student at UBC Okanagan.