As another service provider involved in helping clients to apply for Seconds Career, I want to echo and support what SCapp has said about getting the most from your employment counsellor. Your counsellor is your gateway to apply for the program. If you don't feel that you're getting the help you need: do something about it. Yes, we all have many clients to look after (my client load has almost doubled in the last couple of years), but we are still responsible for doing the very best we can for our clients.
You have responsibilities as an applicant:
- to do your research as carefully as possible, and on time
- to keep job-searching and keep detailed records to prove your activities
- to make sure that you work out your financial situation carefully, in discussion with your counsellor, to understand what you are likely to be living on while in training and work out how you can live in what MTCU calls a 'deficit budget'
- and give yourself enough time to do all of this - you can't show up on a service provider's doorstep four weeks before your chosen program starts (particularly if you don't even have a letter of acceptance) and assume that you'll get everything done and approved in time
- if your counsellor contacts you to say that s/he needs all your documents complete by a certain date to allow her/him to get your application submitted in time for MTCU to review it before your start date, respond QUICKLY! We do that because preparing the applications, even after you've done all your part, does take quite a while. I finished one today for a client; I had spent about three hours on it last week, and then five hours today to finalise everything, including some time spent with her. If I have a full schedule of booked appointments, I need to fit this work in around my other clients. If I have a lot of clients applying for a popular start date, I've got to fit in the time to finalise all their applications - and if the client needs to change anything, then that will mean redoing at least four documents, quite often with significant amendments, and then rechecking all over again. One client recently changed what she wanted to include in her application for basic living allowance FOUR times - and each time the financial information had to be redone and all the documents reprinted.
That said, you should expect the following from your counsellor:
- accurate advice and guidance
- understanding of your situation (even if that does mean that sometimes you're asked questions you might find intrusive - I don't like doing it, but the rules require that I ask some detailed questions about your finances, your family situation, why you left jobs in the past, whether or not you've been getting interviews, whether you have a criminal record and so on)
- empathy and willingness to be supportive, and taking the time to explain why you don't qualify, if you don't, and to offer alternatives
- follow-up appointments within a reasonable time to help you prepare your application - though a 'reasonable time' will depend on demand for service within your region. Wait time for a first appointment at my agency, and pretty much any agency in my city, is 2.5 weeks. My existing clients tend to have to wait around a week and a half for a follow-up appointment
If you feel that your counsellor is not supportive, or is not explaining things clearly enough or not advocating sufficiently for you, then - as SCapp says - complain. Ask to speak to another counsellor at the agency, or the counselling team leader/manager. You're well within your rights to do that, and most agencies have a client service charter which clearly states your right to do that. If you feel that the agency isn't responding to your needs or giving you a fair chance, switch to a different agency. Most regions, unless you're in a very rural area, have more than one service provider. My city, which is not Toronto, has eight. (If there's only one provider in your region, call MTCU and explain why you're not happy with your provider). You may be asked by the new agency whether you are already registered elsewhere, because you can only be registered with one Employment Ontario provider at any one time - tell them that you are, but that you want to switch. Usually, we'll just ask you either to call the other agency to close your file, or have you sign a file transfer form which we will fax to the other provider for you.
Service providers do vary in their knowledge, and in their interpretation of the rules - it infuriates me when I meet clients who say they were told by other providers that they don't qualify because they have university education. As SCapp has said, that's not true - it depends on a range of factors. I also had a client this week tell me that another provider told her that she is too young to qualify, despite having been laid off; that provider scored the client at less than 10, whereas I see a clear 15 points, or 16 if she elects for a regulated profession - plus in two months' time her points will go up by two. I have no idea what that other provider was thinking of, especially as our local MTCU office made very clear at meetings with service providers that SC is not about age; it's about identifying individuals whose current skill-set or education is trapping them in a cycle of short-term or low-skill jobs they can't get out of.
Second Career has helped many people get training they couldn't have afforded on their own, and then into good jobs at the end of it - but at the same time, it's not a miracle cure, and it's not right for everyone. If you do think that it's right for you and that you should qualify according to the rules, then ask and ask and keep asking until either you get a counsellor you trust who does their best to help you, or you understand why you're being told that you don't qualify. MTCU has finally issued a clear explanation of the program and eligibility criteria for applicants, and you can find it here:
Keep asking questions - if I can help, I'll do my best to back up SCapp and his very helpful posts.