Rose Anguiano Hurst
Executive Director of WEST
Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor Inc. (WEST) is on a mission to help women improve their employability and connect with jobs.
Women and newcomers face disproportionately high levels of unemployment. While systemic changes may help rectify their unique barriers to employment integration, the immediate solutions are often local and community-oriented. In Windsor-Essex County, Ont., Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor Inc. (WEST) has become a champion in this area, creating unique programs and collaborating with local employers to get more newcomers and women into fulfilling employment opportunities.
Understanding barriers to employment
WEST was developed in 1984 to address the high unemployment rate among women and the difficulties experienced by women attempting to enter the workforce. As the charitable organization was under development, it became apparent that the most disadvantaged women, in terms of training and employment opportunities, were visible minorities. As a result, a plan was implemented to create technical and life skills training programs specific to the needs of visible minority women residing in Windsor-Essex.
“In terms of the barriers faced, there are always issues of transportation and child care, which cross all sectors of our community of women,” says Rose Anguiano Hurst, Executive Director of WEST. “Some newcomers also face language barriers. Others may arrive with proficient English language skills but have no connections to the Windsor community and its local networks and no information on how to find jobs in our community.”
Dynamic programs for the unemployed
Over the years, WEST’s mission has stayed the same: to provide training for severely employment-disadvantaged visible minority women to improve their employability in the workforce, further their education, or both.
“We provide a wide variety of full-time and part-time training programs for newcomers and women,” says Anguiano Hurst. WEST’s unique programs include its popular Women in Skilled Trades programs, which are funded by the Government of Ontario and help women and young girls pursue careers in the skilled trades while supporting local labour market needs. The training is provided in partnership with St. Clair College, Unifor Local 444, LiUNA 625, and with support from manufacturing. The programs include the CNC Industrial Mechanic Millwright Pre-Apprenticeship, the Introduction to Construction and Craft Trades for Women, and the recently added Electrical Pre-Apprenticeship Program for Women. To date, WEST has helped 260 women through these programs, which Anguiano Hurst notes have been highly successful and described by participants as “life-changing.”
We provide a wide variety of full-time and part-time training programs for newcomers and women.
In addition, WEST’s youth program Science, Engineering, Artistry and Technology (SEAT) gives young women between the ages of 15-30 years old the opportunity to work together on a STEAM-related community-based project that will focus on creating positive change for the community and encourages them to consider education and career options in these sectors.
Recently, WEST also offered another program, Young Women in Motion: Breaking Barriers with Bikes. This program was focused on increasing mobility, physical and social wellbeing of women while teaching them hands-on skills to repair bikes.
It takes a village
WEST also offers Microsoft Office training, the Empowering Women for Employment program (which offers newcomer women the opportunity to enhance their employable skills and build confidence and professional connections to support labour market entry), the Young Women in Leadership, Employment, and Development program (eight weeks of full-time employability essentials training classes followed by a 10-week work placement for young women), and many more.
Part of the success of WEST’s various programs and services lies in the strength of its community collaborations. From industry tours and work placements to employer presentations, networking events, and its Industry Council, WEST has always been big on forming partnerships with the Windsor-Essex business community and bridging the gap between employers and employees.