Yesterday I was in Richmond for my first in-person meeting since the pandemic doing advocacy work on your behalf. It was a meeting of the Social Services Sector Roundtable Reference Group, which brought together leaders in social service umbrella organizations throughout BC. Not everyone in this group was able to meet with us in person, but those who were there represented hundreds of years of experience working as advocates on behalf of their communities. It was moving to hear their stories, share successes, and figure out our next steps together.
For those of you who may not remember, the Social Services Sector Roundtable (SSSRT) was formed in May 2019 by the former Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Hon. Shane Simpson. It brings together seven BC government ministries and organizations and nine social service sector umbrella groups. The Reference Group has an additional thirty or so members, of which ASPECT is a member.
As the SSSRT moves out of pandemic emergency mode, the focus is retackling the province's wicked problems associated with social services. The advisory group has identified three themes of focus: implementing Reconciliation for social services; recruitment and retention of staff within the sector; and issues related to social services procurement. I am eagerly awaiting to see how all our notes are processed and parsed and will share them with you all when they are ready. In the meantime, here is a treasure I picked up that could provide you with support for your current staffing needs or the needs of the labour market in your community.
Sherry Baker, Executive Director of the BC Association of Community Response Networks, talked about how seniors are often an untapped resource. Many are looking to volunteer, work part-time, or on contract but need flexibility.
I agreed because just earlier that morning, I was meeting with my Canadian Coalition of Community-Based Employability Training (CCCBET) colleagues with a program manager from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Norma Strachan, who used to do my job before me and has over 20 years of working in the sector, was also on the call. She volunteers her time on the CCCBET board. We tried to explain to our ESDC colleague how sector funding going directly to employer groups is not always the best way to fund programs as employer groups don't always have the skills and competencies to design programs for themselves or manage government contracts. However, the community-based service providers can see the entire workforce development landscape and quickly and inexpensively determine training and skills development pipelines in partnership with employer groups. Our ESDC colleague understood, but not entirely until Norma stepped in and provided a historical context of the work and its effectiveness. She eloquently summed up the points we were trying to make in less than a minute. It was a true rock star move, and at that moment, I realized how less effective we would have been without Norma on the call.
My point is that while we are in the middle of one of the most dynamic labour markets for our sector, there are many experienced people who may be happy to share their knowledge and expertise post-career. We only need to reach out to them. Thank you again to Norma, who contributed to the sector and continues to do so.
By the way, at our SSSRT Reference Group meeting, two people shared that they are in their 80s and a couple others are also "retired" are leading their organizations. Their contributions of the day were outstanding, as is their continued leadership. I wonder if we would be busily reinventing the wheel if we did not have them in the room with us.