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The employment sector loses two leaders.

20 March 2019 2:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

It is with profound sadness that I write this. I have lost two colleagues this week who have touched my life in ways I could not even imagine.

Dr. Donna E. Wood

Dr. Donna Wood (at left above) had little time for some of my uninformed questions and although she was always polite, in my case she didn't suffer fools gladly. She, along with former ASPECT CEO Norma Strachan, would meet every few months over lunch to discuss employment devolution, funding, policy, and ways to move these issues forward through our work on the Canadian Coalition of Community-Based Employability Training (CCCBET) board of directors. At these lunches, I would take a copious amount of notes where I would flag ideas or concepts that I didn't quite understand to google later. I felt like I was trying to direct-download a one-terabyte file with only one gigabyte of available memory.  In between our in-person meetings, Donna would contact me to share the latest research publication and participated in the video conference calls with the CCCBET board.  

A year ago, the cumulation of her biggest research project was released in her book Federalism in Action: the Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015.  I have mentioned Donna's work in Aspectives several times and invited Donna to speak on it at our last ASPECT Conference in November. (click here to see her slide presentation) In her book, Donna breaks down the choices that individual provinces made when public employment services were devolved from the Federal government to the Provincial government. As a relative newcomer who stepped into my position after someone who had been here for almost 20 years, the historical perspective and analysis of decisions made throughout a 10-year period is golden. It's something that all new leaders, bureaucrats, and politicians responsible for leading employment programs should know. As my promise to Donna, I and my CCCBET colleagues will be carrying her legacy forward to those who make the decisions and create the policy.  Check out Donna's blog for some updates. Donna, you will be missed but your contributions to the sector are in safe hands.

Rhonda Terbasket

I first met Rhonda Terbasket (at right above) at the Summer Labour Market Conference in 2016 in Burnaby. Her first question to me was, "who are your people?" She then proceeded to tell me the story of how she worked with a client and a college program administrator who wanted to eject the client for his behaviour. She provided context into the client's history, the expectations of the school, and how bringing them all together, sharing indigenous perspectives, and figuring out a solution allowed this client to complete the program and thrive.

Through telling about her experiences, Rhonda enlightened me to some of the challenges she encountered and the innovative solutions she used to serve the needs of her clients. Later at a BCCDA conference, I attended a workshop that Rhonda presented that helped me understand the complexity of bringing together indigenous and "European" work culture. Although I had attended several sessions about reconciliation, this was the first time that I didn't feel guilty for the actions of my ancestors. With Karen Abraham's (Okanagan Training and Development Council) help, we were able to bring Rhonda to the 2018 ASPECT Conference to present and were investigating presenting a series of webinars for service providers and government to educate us all in the kind patient way I experienced when I first met Rhonda. Thank you, Rhonda, for being a dear colleague and friend.  

Please take a moment to remember Donna and Rhonda and thank them for their contributions to the sector.

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