Women's Job Re-Entry: A Personal Account
by Lana Smiley
I attended a Women's Job Re-Entry Program in my community from the fall of 1989 to the spring of 1990. I already had a bias against such programs when I entered it, but a bias based not just on personal dislike.
I live in a very small community on the B.C. coast. The population of the total area is slightly over 5,000, with 2500 each in the two major communities. The jobs available for women with no training in non-traditional work are moody retail and waitressing. The majority are part-time and pay minimum wage or not much more. The problem is not that women seeking to re-enter the workforce are unskilled (though this may compound the problem) but that there are not enough jobs in the community offering a single parent a living wage.
In previous years, Women's Job Re-Entry Programs in the community were aimed specifically at women on welfare who had been out of the workforce for three years. These women were taught to be retail clerks. It seemed to me that this was a more appropriate program for jobless single young people than for more mature women, the majority of whom had families to support. As one of these women, I felt I was better off remaining on welfare, where I could at least be available for my children, than working at a low-wage job that would not give me any kind of credible employment history.
By 1989, however, things had changed. The powers that be evidently decided that re- entry women deserved better jobs than the previous programs had trained them for. This time the course was to focus on upgrading secretarial skills. The average wage in the community for this type of work, we were told, was about $7.50 per hour. Still not great, but such training seemed to promise the chance of a better job sometime in the future, particularly as experience on computers was to be a part of it. This course was not limited to women on welfare.