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A Heart of Gold: Passion for Working at the YWCA

Robert Francos is a team member at the YWCA Employment and Learning centre, a YWCA staff long service award recipient with a passion for his chosen career. He shared what makes his role at the YWCA so rewarding, not only to the clients he helps, but also for him.

Francos, who has been part of the YWCA team for since 2012, highlights the skills and experience that can be gained through the resources offered at the Employment and Learning Centre and illustrates some of those services through the multifaceted nature of his own role.

“I have two positions,” said Francos. “The first is the Computer Lab Instructor. I teach a number of different classes: Introduction to Computers, Internet & Email, two levels of Word, two levels of Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Social Media, and Job Search Online in a non-judgmental, patient way. My second job title is Skills Coach, where I help people look for jobs online, assist with wording and formatting of résumés and cover letters, and aid with emails and applying for online jobs.”

Improving employable skills

The YWCA’s Employment and Learning Centre supports both women and men who are seeking skills that will further them in finding a career. Francos speaks on the variety of resources at the centre, which has something for anyone who is trying to improve their skills.

“Everyone who comes into my computer lab is different, and the challenge is to figure out what they need, and what is the best way to help them approach their search,” said Francos. “Some people are desperate, or scared (scared of computers, or scared about where their next rent payment is going to come from), and it’s my job to figure out the best path in how to help them.”

A newfound satisfaction

Prior to joining the YWCA team, Francos worked for a Fortune 500 management consulting firm. He admits the corporate experience was  draining at times, but now he has a newfound satisfaction in directing others on their own search for the right career by giving them the tools and teaching them the skills that will ultimately aid in their success.

“Here, I get to help people find jobs,” expresses Francos. “As for the most rewarding? First, when I am instructing a computer class and I see someone get it, that makes me feel great. My favorite thing to hear is when someone tells me, ‘I wish I would have known this when . . . It would have made my job a lot easier.’ Second, when I’m out and about in the city, and I run into a former student working at their job, and they tell me that I helped them learn the skills to get that position. That really feels great.”

Conquering the fear of technology

Francos teaches skills that are beneficial in each step of the job hunt process. This starts with résumé help, and then continues with training in computer programs like Excel and PowerPoint, considered valuable skills by companies who are seeking a well-rounded candidate to fill a position. Not surprisingly, many of those sought-after skills are technology-related. Francos asserts that there is something for everyone who is willing to learn and enhance their chances of starting a career.

Something for everyone

“There are many resources in the Employment and Learning Centre,” explains Francos. “For example, beyond what I do, there are a number of Employment Counselors who do one-on-one services for job searching, résumés and email; a comprehensive program called Trade Journey to help women begin careers in the trades; a library of job search/résumé writing/interview questions books; a three-week program called the Job Finding Club; and shorter workshops. I’ve been through many of the other programs in the city, and have found that the YWCA is incredibly comprehensive and suited to most people.”

The Trade Journey program Francos describes is a 16-week program that assists women in beginning and succeeding in construction trades, such as carpentry, plumbing, welding, electrical or sheet metal. The program teaches participants the necessary skills and knowledge in order to advance in their chosen trade.

Keeping an open mind

Searching for the correct job or career path can sometimes be a job within itself. Francos’ words of advice? Perseverance and keeping an open mind are keys to success when it comes to finding the right career.

“Nearly every job I’ve had has started as part-time, temporary, or casual, and has grown from that, including this one,” confesses Francos. “It’s important to not be intimidated by a lengthy job posting, because there are a lot of transferable skills you already possess that may make you more suited for that job than you realize.”

Story and photo by Lyndall Mack